Writing Rules

Below are some common grammar/punctuation rules. It is very basic so that everyone (including those for whom English is not a first language!) can understand what I'm attempting to explain. It is by no means a comprehensive list of all the grammatical rules or types of punctuation. (Check out our Writing Resources Links page for sites who do have in-depth discussion of such issues.) This is merely meant to be a starting point.


Noun: person, place, thing, or idea. Willow The Magic Box blood are all nouns.

Verb: an action word. slay stake ran

Adjective: describes a noun. red hair, wooden stake

Adverb: modify verbs. Often end in "ly" (though not always). Answer the question "How?" How did Willow do on her exam? Willow did well on her exam. How did Spike run toward the fight? Spike quickly ran toward the fight.

Pronoun: Refers to the noun in the sentence. Willow studied for her test.

All sentences must have a noun and a verb, otherwise it is not a sentence but rather a sentence fragment.

Make sure subjects and verbs agree! If the subject is singular (he, she, it, you, Willow, Spike, etc.) make the verb singular! If the subject is plural (they, we, the Scoobies, the Slayerettes) make the verb plural!

Keep your verbs in the same tense! (Unless you're doing a flashback or speaking of what happened in the past). For instance, do not do this: Willow opens the door and picked up the phone. Grammatically correct, this would be: Willow opened the door and picked up the phone. OR Willow opens the door and picks up the phone.

Check for run-on sentences! A run-on sentence is an independent clause that have not been joined correctly. I know, you're looking at the screen asking "What on EARTH is she talking about?" An example of a run-on is this: Stakes and holy water can kill vampires they are an essential part of slaying equipment. To correct this sentence there are four choices:

1. Use a comma and a coordinating conjunction (however, thus, therefore). This would change our sentence to: Stakes and holy water can kill vampires and therefore are an essential part of slaying equipment.
2. Use a semicolon, a colon or a dash. Stakes and holy water can kill vampires; they are an essential part of slaying equipment.
3. Make the clauses into separate sentences. Stakes and holy water can kill vampires. They are an essential part of slaying equipment.
4. Restructure the sentence: Since stakes and holy water can kill vampires, they are an essential part of slaying equipment.


Spacing: not exactly punctuation, but go with me on this. One space between words, but two between sentences!

Periods: Obviously come after a sentence to show it is complete.

Commas: Used to prevent sentences from colliding together. For instance without a comma, this following sentence takes on a whole new meanings: While Xander was eating a demon attacked him. Now, without a comma, at first glance, one might think Xander was eating a demon. While Xander does eat almost anything, I do believe he draws the line somewhere. Thus, a comma is necessary making the sentence: While Xander was eating, a demon attacked him.

Commas between items in a series is up for debate. However, most experts agree that using a comma between the second and third items in a series results in increased clarity and less confusion. For instance: Buffy and the Scoobies have defeated the Master, the Judge, and the Mayor.

Semi-colons are used between independent clauses not linked by a conjunction. For instance: Five vamps were sitting at the bar in Willy's; only one was drinking blood.

Colons are used after independent clauses to call attention to a list, a quote, etc. For instance: Buffy's training includes the following: running, beating with the dummy, and blindfolded sword-fighting.

The Apostrophe is used to indicate possession or to mark contractions. The following examples show possession. If the subject ends in any letter other than "s" add and 's. Willow's athame, Xander's Twinkie, Giles's shop. If the subject ends in an "s" and is plural simply add the apostrophe after the "s". The vampires' growls. If two people own the object the apostrophe goes after the second person's name. Buffy and Willow's dorm room was big. If two people have the same object the apostrophe goes after each person's name. Cordy's and Buffy's tube tops were blue. Contractions are two verbs strung together. Willow, where's the spellbook? Where's is a combination of where and is. This occurs with many verbs. However, it is usually only used in dialogue, not description.

Quotation marks show when someone is speaking. "Willow, why did you perform that spell?" Giles asked. "I cast the spell to help everyone, Giles," Willow answered.

Question marks are used after a direct question. Exclamation points are used after a sentence that expresses exceptional feeling or needs special emphasis.