Five Punctuation Marks You Won’t Need in Your Memoir

Learning all about punctuation will make you a more skilled writer, and our Write My Memoirs Grammar and Writing Course explains how to use all the punctuation marks. But do you need to have that level of skill to write your memoir? No, you don’t.

Know how to end a sentence. You’ll need either a period, a question mark or an exclamation point, and in a memoir you may never need that exclamation point except in dialogue. Know how to properly use a comma. An em dash like this—and often we use two to enclose a thought fragment—comes in handy, so you might want to find out how to use that. You’ll need hyphens for hyphenated terms like father-in-law and cold-hearted.

You must learn how to use an apostrophe. That one is important, and we cover it thoroughly in our course.

But that’s about it. Here are five punctuation marks you don’t need in order to craft a memoir.

  • Semicolon. A semicolon acts like a period to end a sentence. The distinction is that the semicolon ends a sentence that immediately precedes a second sentence closely related to the first. You’ll be good at this job; your background is perfect. That’s an appropriate use of a semicolon, but you also can just stick a period in there.
  • Colon. A colon introduces a list or a thought. It’s easy to avoid. I packed the following: shorts, a bathing suit, gym shoes, three t-shirts and a pair of jeans. To avoid the colon, just omit “the following:” and write what you packed.
  • Parentheses. You just don’t need parentheses. Anything you want to enclose in parentheses can be enclosed between commas or em dashes instead. Parentheses tend to weaken the impact of writing, and you certainly don’t need them in a memoir.
  • Brackets. This is a rare punctuation mark in general. Brackets serve as parentheses within parentheses, and we already know that we don’t even need the first set, much less the second set within the first set. Brackets also serve to speak directly to the reader, as in [sic], which will never come up in a memoir.
  • Single quotation marks. Although it’s become common to use single quotes to indicate little phrases that writers think don’t warrant actual quotation marks, this is a completely fabricated use. The only use for single quotation marks is to indicate a quote within a quote. In dialogue, it can come up. “I want to see ‘Titanic’ this summer,” she said. So you may need to use single quotation marks, but you probably won’t. Also, you can just italicize a movie title like Titanic instead.

So don’t worry about those five punctuation marks. To learn more, take our online course!