You must employ a definite system with regard to what printers call the 'style of the copy'; that is, the division of manuscript into paragraphs and sentences; the punctuation, including inverted commas and apostrophes; use of capital letters and italics; numbers, whether written in full or not; abbreviations and symbols; and spelling. You must be strict with yourself to employ the system as accurately in your rough draft, as in your fair copy; so that you may acquire the habit.


Divide the composition into paragraphs. Each paragraph should contain one division of the subject. Thus, the Introduction and the Conclusion will each have one (sometimes more than one) paragraph; and each section of the Argument will be contained in a separate paragraph. The sentences of which the paragraph is composed should (generally speaking) contain one piece of information, with or without qualifications, and one only.

Leave a margin an inch or more wide on the left side of the paper, and begin the first line of each paragraph half an inch to the right of the margin.


The Full Stop marks the end of the sentence.

The Semi-colon marks the principal divisions of the


sentence:-'They have no curiosity; they cannot give themselves over to random provocations; they do not take pleasure in the exercise of their faculties for its own sake; and unless Necessity lays about them with a stick, they will even stand still.' (R. L. Stevenson.)

The Colon is used when the succeeding matter of the sentence is wholly employed in qualifying, explaining or amplifying the first clause:-'My walking is of two kinds: one, straight on end to a definite goal at a round pace; one, objectless, loitering, and purely vagabond.' (Dickens.). It is also often used, with a dash, to precede a quotation, as in the example here given.

The Comma is used to mark the subordinate clauses of a sentence, as in the example last quoted; to mark a relative clause:- Cibber, who had been introduced familiarly by the back-stairs, had probably not been there above ten minutes. . . .' (Boswell's Johnson); to mark a parenthesis, or qualifying clause, when the use of brackets would be too emphatic:-' I still noticed everywhere the prevalence, to an extraordinary degree, of this custom of putting the natural demand for amusement out of sight, as some untidy housekeepers put dust, and pretending that it was swept away.' (Dickens.) The test of a parenthesis is, of course, that, after its omission, the sentence should still run grammatically. The Comma is also used to separate each item of a series; in which case it is usually followed (sometimes replaced) by 'and' between the last item enumerated and the last but one: -' . . . the geological periods, Criticism on Milton, the Steam-Engine, John Bunyan, and Arrow-Headed Inscriptions ... (Dickens); and sometimes after a preposition or a conjunction which begins a sentence:— But, when I was in Dullborough one day . . .'' Neither, was I ever belated . . . ' 'Now, there was this special feature... For, I meant to have observed before

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now, that . . . ' (Dickens); and so (generally speaking) with Therefore, Wherefore, Thus, Still, However, Moreover, Because, etc.

The Dash is used to mark off a parenthesis more emphatically than would brackets: The large room had cost-or would, when paid for-five hundred pounds (Dickens); to separate more sharply and emphatically the clauses of a sentence than would semi-colons or commas :-' At length these flickering sparks would die away, worn out-the last veritable sparks of waking life trailed from some late pieman or hot-potato man-and London would sink to rest' (Dickens); and to designate aught of the unexpected in the turn of a sentence :'And then the yearning of the houseless mind would be for any sign of company, any lighted place, any movement, anything suggestive of any one being up-nay, even so much as awake, for the houseless eye looked out for lights in windows' (Dickens).

The Bracket is used for the insertion of a parenthesis of small importance :-'They had impressed a small school (from what neighbourhood I don't know) to assist in the performances' (Dickens).

The Exclamation Mark is used after an exclamation or interjection; and, except in writing dialogue, it should be employed very, very seldom.

The Question Mark, of course, follows a question; and may be used, like the Colon, Semi-colon, Comma, and Dash, in the body of a sentence :-' Is not this permissible? although, 'tis true, examples are somewhat rare.'

Inverted Commas either double or single (known to the printer as single or double 'quotes') are used to indicate a quotation; being placed immediately before and after it. Do not forget to put in the second Inverted Comma, or the second pair, as the case may be. If the stop at the end of the quotation belongs to that

quotation, then the second Inverted Commas are placed to the right of such stop:-"quotation." But, if the stop at the end of the quotation belongs to the punctuation of your own composition, the Inverted Commas are placed to the left of such stop:-"quotation". A quotation within a quotation, as when one person speaking quotes another, is indicated by single Inverted Commas outside double :-'I asked him, "What quotation shall I select?" and he replied, "Invent one!" In such a case, the beginning of each paragraph, and the end of the last paragraph of all, has a single inverted


The Apostrophe represents the possessive genitive, separating the final s from the noun, when the noun is of the singular number :-'The master's essay'; if the noun ends in s, strongly sibilant, the additional s is omitted: -'Moses' dispensation'; the same rule sometimes applies, according to usage, to nouns whose plurals end in s:- The Muses' choir.' Plurals not ending in s follow, of course, the rule applying to the singular:-'Women's way, men's perplexity.' There is no apostrophe to its (possessive), ours, theirs, yours—to caution the beginner against a common slip of the pen. The apostrophe is also used in cases of elision; as in the words :-'tis, it's, 'twas, don't, can't, won't, mustn't, etc.

Usage varies with regard to the hyphen; it is better, therefore, when you are in doubt, to use it.

All these rules do but indicate the general principles which govern punctuation; it would be useless. to attempt to legislate for every contingency; and your practice will be best formed by noting the practice of modern writers. Among these, the works of Charles. Dickens have been referred to as models by authorities on the subject. You will find it useful, also, to bear in mind the old-fashioned rule for reading aloud:-'Count

Four for a full stop, Three for a colon, Two for a semicolon, One for a comma.' For, the written composition must always be constructed in due relation to the spoken; to test the value of a sentence, you read it aloud; and, according as your meaning is intended to strike and to penetrate the mind swiftly or slowly, so must you arrange your stops. For, the stops give the time, as well as mark the structure, of the sentence.


The initial letter of all titles should be a capital. Thus, the principal words in the title of any given essay, will have initial capitals; but, you need not necessarily use them, if you have occasion to refer to the title in the body of the essay. The initial letter of the first word of a sentence must, of course, be a capital.

Names of books and of ships should be written in italics. In your manuscript, italics are indicated by a line drawn (neatly) beneath the word. All foreign words are italicised. Italics are also used to denote emphasis; but, in essay-writing, they should be very seldom employed for this purpose. You should rely on the force of the word used, and the construction of the sentence, for emphasis.


The date of a month, the number of a volume, the year of a person's age, and, generally, all numbers except the date of a year, and a series of statistics, should be written in words :-' On the twenty-ninth of March, Dr. Johnson writes to Dr. Birch with reference to the famous Dictionary, whose second and concluding volume was then published; Johnson being in the forty-seventh year

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