Friday, July 18, 2008

(4) Semicolon, Colon, Dash, Hyphen, and Ellipsis

The semicolon (;), colon (:), dash (—), hyphen (-), and ellipsis (. . .) are forms of punctuation that serve a variety of functions within the grammatical and stylistic flow of sentences. [EDIT]

(4.S) A semicolon usually combines two closely related complete sentences (approximately equal to a comma and conjunction joining two sentences). The semicolon also precedes and a comma follows adverbial conjunctions such as “however,” “therefore,” “hence,” “furthermore,” “for example,” and “in fact.” A semicolon can also replace a comma when a series of elements includes commas within each element of the series in order to avoid confusion for the reader.


As students read their chosen texts, the teacher provides a common text for students as a model of reading and responding to text; that model text is chosen because it is rich literacy and challenges the students.

Nationally, the ratio is about 800 students per administrator; for example, Maine is about 400 to 1, suggesting a waste of funds.

Students and children in general have far more experiences with traditional views being endorsed than with having traditional views questioned; thus, challenging traditional views of gender in a setting where the literature is difficult can cause students more disequilibrium than they can handle.

At one point that always consisted of the five-paragraph essay—introduction with a thesis statement that established three points; three body paragraphs, one for each point; and a conclusion.

(4.C) The colon is used to introduce long lists, extended examples or elaborations, or quoted material that can stand alone. (The colon also has functional uses when displaying time in numerals and when identifying books and verses from the Bible, for example.)


For Ellison, who left college and gained his full education as a writer by reading and writing, the purpose of education was clear: “Education is a matter of building bridges, it seems to me” (p. 548).

Here I will focus solely on writing instruction and will consider several problems that face us as teachers of writing at the early childhood levels—setting the stage for all writing instruction that follows:
(1) What do we know about teaching writing?
(2) What are the distinctions between writing and composing?
(3) What is the nature of the composing/writing process?
(4) How do pre-K and early childhood teachers address composing with pre-graphic and developing-graphic students—ones just learning to physically write on paper?

Jane Kiel offers a synthesis of what we know about how students learn and, more importantly for this discussion, how students acquire language. Her conclusion drawn from how we deal with reading and writing, vocabulary, spelling, and the many and varied aspects we lump under language arts instruction serves well to focus us here:
Given the vast amount of language [students] have already learned on their own before starting school, this fact [—very little is learned through direct instruction—] should not surprise us. Language is learned when we are exposed to, and engaged with, meaningful language, not because we are taught. So, as Frank Smith (1994) and many others have said, maybe we should spend more instructional time not on instruction, but on giving the students a chance to interact with language in a meaningful way: through reading and writing for an audience. It is through such contact that true language learning takes place. (15)

(4.D) The dash identifies harsh interruptions, when those interruptions are so abrupt that commas seem inadequate, and connects lists, explanations, quotes, and elaborations to the main flow of a sentence in similar ways as the use of colons. The dash can be typed as two hyphens, but auto-formatting options in modern word processors should allow you to insert actual dashes in your text (the hyphen and dash are not interchangeable forms of punctuation). Many people have strong stylistic opinions about dashes—some preferring the dash and some cautioning writers against overuse.


“’Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught,’” Steven Pinker—early in his argument about the language instinct—quotes from Oscar Wilde (19).

Direct instruction—especially implemented in a blanket approach for an entire class—of grammatical and mechanical awareness already intuited by students often interferes with both their known and their expanding range of linguistic dexterity.

At one point that always consisted of the five-paragraph essay—introduction with a thesis statement that established three points; three body paragraphs, one for each point; and a conclusion.

(4.H) The hyphen combines words that normally work separately but when combined have a meaning unique to those same words used separately. The evolving nature of spelling in the English language also includes words being separate and then hyphenated and finally one word (“None the less,” “none-the-less,” “nonetheless” and “to morrow,” “to-morrow,” “tomorrow”).

An on-line resource for the hyphen can be found here:


Most students have suffered through some form of the imposed essay form. At one point that always consisted of the five-paragraph essay—introduction with a thesis statement that established three points; three body paragraphs, one for each point; and a conclusion.

Over the course of two decades of high-stakes testing that has evolved into NCLB, students have been coerced more and more to fulfill false templates instead of developing as writers with ideas and linguistic command.

The template approach to teaching students to write essays is analogous to teaching students to paint portraits in art classes by starting with paint-by-numbers.

(4.E) The ellipsis is a single form of punctuation, but it appears to be three periods. The ellipsis represents omitted material within quoted passages. If you omit words, you must be sure to maintain the meaning of the quoted material, and that quote must remain grammatically sensible.


“I assume you all know that I really have no business attending this sort of conference,” began Ralph Ellison (2003), speaking to educators at Bank Street College of Education in September of 1963. Despite his perceptive opening, Ellison did continue his lecture, “to discuss. . .the difficult thirty percent” (p. 546).

An on-line resource for several punctuation issues can be found here:

An additional resource relating punctuation and sentence patterns can be found here: