Page images


Business Punctuation


Business Forms



Punctuation is the use of different characters to separate words, elements, and sentences in such a way as to help to convey to the reader the exact thought of the writer.

Every one who reads and writes English, or any other language, has some knowledge of punctuation. Many persons punctuate well without ever having made any systematic study of the subject. In fact, comparatively few make a study of punctuation. To study literature is to study punctuation. Everything one reads or writes is a study in punctuation, for in order to either read or write understandingly a definite regard must be given to the marks that bring out the different shades of meaning. Conversely, a study of punctuation is a study of language, of the balance and value of words and their relation to each other. The understanding of the ideas intended to be conveyed by the words used is the basis for good punctuation, for one cannot punctuate what he does not understand.

Any one who has formed a habit of accurate reading, even if his reading has been somewhat limited, should be able to punctuate fairly well. If, on the other hand, his reading has been slip-shod, his punctuation is apt to partake of that characteristic. A careful observation of the punctuation in one chapter of a well-written book, or in an editorial from a high-grade newspaper or magazine, will result in a grasping of the principles of the subject-for there are general underlying principles.

People are apt to excuse faults in their punctuation by the statement that "no two punctuate exactly alike." True, in a long article punctuated by different persons there would usually be some difference, owing to the fact that they would not gather exactly the same ideas or see the same relations, and this difference in understanding would be shown by a difference in their punctuation.

Many persons attempt to make a distinction between "literary punctuation" and “commercial punctuation.” There is a difference between the commonlytermed "literary style" and the "commercial style" of composition, but not of punctuation. General literature commonly employs longer sentences than commercial composition, and this explains any difference in punctuation. If it were customary to deal with long sentences in commercial work, then more punctuation would be required. The principles of punctuation are always the same, the difference being in the composition.

It would be an easy matter when studying punctuation to stray unwittingly into the realm of composition, for good punctuation presupposes good composition. One writer says, “It is vain to propose, by arbitrary punctuation, to amend the defects of a sentence, to correct its ambiguity, or to prevent its confusion.” Nevertheless, an intelligent use of punctuation marks will often help to unlock the imprisoned thought in involved or poorly-constructed sentences.

As is the case with the stenographer, it is sometimes necessary to transcribe and punctuate the words of another. While in some instances the stenographer is at liberty to "edit” what he transcribes, ordinarily he is supposed to make few, if any, changes in wording or arrangement. Then the problem is often how to punctuate so as, in some degree, to compensate for faulty construction, and the efficient stenographer recognizes this as being within his province.

The punctuation marks we shall consider are the Period (.), Interrogation point (?), Exclamation point (!), Colon (:), Semicolon (;), Comma (,), Dash (-), Parentheses ( ), Brackets ( [ ] ), and Quotation marks (" ").

The lessons that are to be punctuated by the student are important. Their marking will serve as a visible proof of his understanding of the work gone

over. *

*J. Clifford Kennedy, Punctuation Simplified.



1. When the Period Should Be Used

The period should be used at the end of a complete declarative or imperative sentence, after initials, usually after abbreviations, to separate hours from minutes, whole numbers from their decimal fractions, after Arabic numerals used to number a list of subjects, paragraphs or parts of paragraphs, after sideheads placed at the beginning of paragraphs, after titles when followed by the name and author, and after the address and signature of letters; as,

1. We received your telegram this morning.
2. Please send us one dozen noiseless erasers.
3. J. G. Whittier, J. G. Holland.
4. Mr., Esq., M. D., G. F. A., C. O. D., f. o. b., inst., viz., i. e., et al., etc.
5. Train arrives at 7.30 a.m. and leaves

7.40 a.m.
6. $4.80, 4.006.

1. The Colonial Period
2. The Confederation

3. The Constitutional Period 8. Break-down Test.—This test was made for break-down at a potential of 2,000

volts. 9. Classified Commercial Correspondence.-Carolyn H. Locke. 10.

Baltimore, Md., May 19, 1909 Carter Publishing Company,

85 Wabash Avenue,

Chicago, Illinois.


2. When the Period Should Not Be Used

The period should not be used after headings of chapters, subheadings, running titles, Roman numerals, items in tabulated matter, contractions, abbreviations that have come to be words in themselves, nicknames, 1st, 2d, 3d, etc., and after displayed lines on title pages; as,

1. Chapter III, Third Lesson, Mortgage Deed 2. Rules for forming plurals of nouns 3. Louis IX, Book III 4. Please ship via S. P. R. R. the following:

20 bbl. Cream Meal

5 bbl. Family Flour
50 lb. Rice
100 lb. Sugar.

« PreviousContinue »