Grammar Breakfast with Sage: Punctuation 


Here at Sage, we host a Grammar Breakfast once a month where we discuss different aspects of grammar. It’s a great way for our team to get together and discuss the rules of AP Style. This month, we chose to focus on punctuation.

Punctuation can be confusing; especially when it comes to colons, semicolons and dashes. Do you know when to use what?

First up: The colon vs. semicolon debate. A colon is used to announce, introduce or direct attention. A colon can be used for a list, a noun or noun phrase or a quotation. For example:

My roommate gave me the things I needed most: companionship and quiet. 

Shakespeare said it best: “To thine own self be true.” 

A semicolon is used to separate items in a list when some of those items already contain commas or to help join sentences. For example:

I bought shiny, ripe apples; small, sweet grapes; and firm pears. 

I went to the grocery store today; I bought a ton of fruit.

Next up: Dashes. There are two types of dashes to discuss: Em dashes (—) and En dashes ( - ). Think of em dashes as the opposite of a parenthesisthey’re used for the reader to put more emphasis on the language. Em dashes are often used to emphasize material in the middle of a sentence. For example:

“The Office”—a harmless television program or a dangerously subversive guide to delinquency in the workplace? 

The students—they were each over the age of eighteen—lined up in the streets to vote for the presidential candidates.

En dashes are shorter in length than em dashes. The en dash is used to indicate spans of time or ranges of numbers. For example:

The scheduled window for the cable installation is 12:00-3:00pm.

Lastly, when do you use a hyphen? A hyphen is used to join two or more words together. For example:

During this crisis, we will need to hold several closed-door meetings. 

Need to make sure your organization is in line with AP Style? Sage can help! Contact us:


X-SageJim McIntyre