In many ways, Punctuation can be

From Rhetorical Devices Handout


(a) semi-colon [;] used between two related sentences. If used sparingly, it is an effective way of showing relationships using punctuation instead of connectives

(b) colon [:] has two uses: (i) signals a list: e.g. “There are three main reasons that grade twelve students receive low marks: weak skills, attendance problems, and failure to submit work.” (ii) emphasis: e.g. “There is only one thing worth dying for: one’s ideals.”

(c) dash [--] this is used in a more casual essay style for emphasis, like the colon, or to draw attention to material inserted into a sentence. Used frequently, it creates a sense of speed, or a breathlessness to writing.

(c) parentheses [( )] not to be confused with square brackets [ ] which are used to change quotation components. Like the dash, parentheses are used in journalistic, rather than formal essays, and can serve to signal different intents like (i) an ironic or humorous aside, (ii) additional, though less relevant, material, or (iii) explanation (e.g. “The protagonist Hannah (Wynona Ryder) is the recipient of the unwanted attention of the farmer’s son Jerry (James Spader).”

(e) italics [italics] often signals sarcasm or irony. Italics can also signal a stress word or signal a foreign word or phrase

(f) quotation marks [“ ”] (i) signal an actual quotation from an authority. In fact, the quotation may not be as important as the authority because most quotations are intended to validate the author’s thesis; (ii) signals that the word is being used ironically; (iii) signals awareness by the author of some misuse of the word