Comma Alternatives

How to write with punctuation other than the comma.

The following are alternatives that you can use instead of a comma. The remainder of the punctuation symbols fall into this category.

When I Use Parenthesis ()

I use parenthesis much more in non-fiction than I do in my fiction writing.

In fiction writing, I prefer to use commas to delimit parenthetical asides.

The new student, who was a bit of a loner, left the room without comment.

I always use parenthesis to identify an acronym.

International Business Machines (IBM) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Once you’ve defined an acronym in this way, you may use it in the place of the full name.

When I Use Semicolons (;): Combining Sentences

Semicolons are used to insert a pause in a sentence harder and longer than a comma pause but short of terminating the sentence as in the case of a period.

I don’t need them & therefore only use them for one simple trick: to connect sentences.

Fairness in testing was not a priority. The tests were rigged.
Fairness in testing was not a priority; specifically, the tests were rigged.

Another example:

You may have grasped my point. Punctuation is simple.
You may have grasped my point; namely, that punctuation is simple.

Semicolons should also be used in place of commas when connecting sentences with a conjunction that contain commas themselves.

When My Wife Uses Em-dashes: Parenthetical Expressions

My wife has the interesting habit of using em-dashes in place of commas in parenthetical expressions.

Sonya was a mess – in fact, she was dressed in rags – though she was still
technically considered royalty.

This has become essential to my wife’s writing style.

4th Law: Use double quotes to enclose dialog

I never use single quotes.

Use quotes and a period terminator when performing simple quoting of statements.

“Don’t be stupid, Leroy. Take the money.”

Note the comma between the first statement and the target of the statement.

Use quotes and a comma to identify the source of the statement.

“Don’t be stupid, Leroy,” Laura said. “Take the money.”

Note the second comma that extends the dialog through “Laura said.”

Let’s expand on the basics some more…

When I Use Colons: To Precede Lists

Remember the basics of punctuation: periods, question marks, commas and quotes.

Notice the use of a colon before a separate list:

First Item
Second Item

Also, use colons to join sentences when trying to save space for connecting words.

Agile Project Management using Scrum and Trello
Agile Project Management: Scrum and Trello

When I use the Ellipses…

Use an ellipsis to terminate a sentence that is incomplete… or soon completed.

“John, I don’t know what to say,” Gloria gasped. “I just don’t…”

Slash, Square Brackets and Braces

I did a Google search to see if I missed anything from memory and came up with these.

Other than in coding, the slash is the only remaining punctuation mark I use.

Use a slash to connect options: Spring/Winter/Summer/Fall.

Or to signify division or apportionment.

One hundred dollars per year, or $100/yr.

That’s everything!