National Punctuation Day Quiz


September 24 is National Punctuation Day! Only writer and editor types even care about such a thing. But since that’s me—and a lot of my followers—I figured it might be fun to “celebrate” with a little quiz to see how well you know the industry-standard punctuation rules.








1. Which punctuation is correct in each of the following examples?

  1. John Williams’s plotline      or        John Williams’ plotline
  2. the witness’s story                or        the witness’ story
  3. the Jones’s house                 or        the Joneses’ house
  4. for goodness sake                 or        for goodness’ sake

2. Which of these sentences are punctuated correctly?

  1. Here’s a list of do’s and don’ts.
  2. He graduated in the 1980’s.
  3. She got all A’s on her report card.
  4. Donna’s novel was published in ‘82.

3. Should the words in these sentences be capitalized or lowercased?

  1. Her aunt/Aunt Sharon baked a cake.
  2. What’s the prognosis, doctor/Doctor?
  3. John wanted to be a marine/Marine, but he enlisted in the US army/Army.
  4. I have a bachelor’s/Bachelor’s degree/Degree in literature/Literature.

4. Should commas be added in these instances?

  1. My name is Harold Harrison Jr.
  2. Hey girlfriend!
  3. Jerry walked into the lobby where he met Stacy.
  4. Marci stood beside the cabinet holding her coat.

5. Which industry-standard reference manuals encourage authors to lowercase pronouns referring to God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit?

  1. The Chicago Manual of Style
  2. The Associated Press Stylebook
  3. The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style
  4. all of the above

6. In these instances, should an en dash, em dash, or ellipsis be used?

  1. When a character’s dialogue is interrupted
  2. When a character’s speech trails off
  3. Between inclusive numbers, such as dates or pages
  4. To link a city to the name of a university that has multiple campuses

7. Should the following titles be in quotation marks or italics?

  1. Pride and Prejudice (book or movie)
  2. Fiction Lover’s Devotionals (book series)
  3. Amazing Grace (song)
  4. How to Punctuate Properly (article)

8. Where should periods be in these abbreviations?

  1. eg (for example)
  2. ie (that is)
  3. et al (and others)
  4. etc (and other things)

9. Where should commas be placed in these sentences?

  1. “Lord” Sandra prayed “please help me.”
  2. The real question was “Which writers’ conference should I attend next year?”
  3. Putting a comma before “Joe hit me” changes the meaning of the sentence.
  4. “Good grief” Esther laughed.

10. What reference books do writers need to find definitive punctuation guidelines?

  1. The Chicago Manual of Style
  2. The Associated Press Stylebook
  3. The Christian Writers’ Manual of Style
  4. Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors


ANSWERS for number one:

  1. John Williams’s plotline (for books or popular-style magazines). John Williams’ plotline (for newspapers or journalistic-style magazines).
  2. the witness’s story (for books or popular-style magazines). The witness’ story (for newspapers or journalistic-style magazines).
  3. the Joneses’ house
  4. for goodness’ sake

ANSWERS for number two:

  1. Wrong. Should be “Here’s a list of dos and don’ts.” (No apostrophe in “dos.”)
  2. Wrong. Should be “He graduated in the 1980s.” (No apostrophe in “1980s.”)
  3. Wrong. Should be “She got all As on her report card.” (No apostrophe in “As.”)
  4. Wrong. The apostrophe before the 82 is curled the wrong direction. Should be “Donna’s novel was published in ’82.”)

ANSWERS for number three:

  1. Lowercase kinship names when preceded by a modifier (such as “her”).
  2. Capitalize titles when used in place of a personal name in direct address.
  3. Only capitalize military terms when included as part of the official title. In this example, lowercase “marine” but capitalize “US Army.”
  4. Lowercase names of degrees in running text. (It’s okay to capitalize on a résumé, business card, etc.) Lowercase academic subjects (unless they form part of a department name or an official course name).

ANSWERS for number four:

  1. No comma before “Jr.” or “Sr.”
  2. Use a comma to set off names or words used in direct address.
  3. If this is the lobby where Jerry met Stacy on a previous occasion, no comma. If Jerry walked into the lobby and then met Stacy there, use a comma.
  4. If the cabinet is holding Marci’s coat, no comma. If Marci is holding her coat, use a comma.

ANSWER for number five: All of the above. But CMOS and CWMS allow for author preference if self-publishing or with approval of the publishing house.

ANSWERS for number six:

  1. Em dash (—)
  2. Ellipsis (… or . . .)
  3. En dash (–) for books or popular-style magazines. Hyphen for newspapers or journalistic-style publications.
  4. Same as c.

ANSWERS for number seven:

  1. Book and movie titles should be in italics.
  2. Series titles are not in italics or quotation marks.
  3. Song titles should be in quotation marks.
  4. Article titles should be in quotation marks.

ANSWERS for number eight:

  1. e.g.
  2. i.e.
  3. et al.
  4. etc.

ANSWERS for number nine:

  1. Two commas: “Lord,” Sandra prayed, “please help me.”
  2. No comma here, because the quotation is being used as a noun.
  3. No comma here—same reason.
  4. No comma here. Use a period or exclamation point after “Good grief” because “Esther laughed” is not a dialogue tag. (Just try laughing those words.)

ANSWERS for number ten:

  1. The Chicago Manual of Style is the industry standard for books and popular-style magazines.
  2. The Associated Press Stylebook is the industry standard for newspapers and journalistic-style publications.
  3. The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style is the industry standard for Christian-specific terminology (such as capitalization of religious words and formatting of Scripture quotations).
  4. Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors highlights the most common areas of punctuation (as well as usage, grammar, and spelling) that writers face, based on all of the above reference books.

I hope you enjoyed taking the quiz. And that you have a Happy Punctuation Day!