英文写作指南——标点符号篇(上)

在指导留学文书的过程中,AADPS的陈欣老师常常发现学生们对于英文标点掌握得较弱。受到母语影响,不少学员都会下意识的把之前的写作习惯带入进来。虽然现代汉语的标点系统本身也是受到西方语言影响的,但中英文的标点规则还是有不少区别。除此之外,学术英文特有的语法结构和风格又使得标点的使用场景变得愈加复杂。考虑到这些,陈欣老师建议大家可以把本文作为一个起点,审视一下自己在平时使用英文标点的一些短板。毕竟俗话说“细节之处见真章”(the devil is in the detail),标点使用是最能够体现英文写作造诣的方面之一,用好它们是给招生官留下深刻印象的第一步。

句号(period)

句号用来表示一个句子的结束,体现陈述事实的语气。这点和中文的句号并没有什么不同。句子是英文段落的基本单位,以能较为独立的表达一段可被理解的信息为准。

A sentence is a linguistic unit consisting of one or more words that are grammatically linked.

转述他人的疑问(indirect question)依然使用句号结尾。

Many asked whether this measure was truly necessary.

句号永远放在引号内。如果括号在句子结尾,但括号里不是完整的句子,句号置于括号外。如果括号本身囊括了一个独立的句子,句号可以置于括号内。

The rule was, at least on the port side of the ship, "Woman and children only."
No allowance had been made for steerage passengers (that is, economy class---the cheapest fare.).
No allowance had been made for steerage passengers (that is, economy class---the cheapest fare).
No allowance had been made for steerage passengers. (Steerage was defined as economy class, the cheapest fare.)

句号可以用于缩写和人称如Apt.,Mr.,Dr.等。如缩写词正好处于句子末尾,仅使用一个句号;如缩写词处于句子中间,在语法上将缩写词等同于完整形式。对于现代英语,首字母大写词已经不再用句号标识缩写,如AADPS。

问号(question mark)

问号用来在句子末尾体现疑问语气,也几乎和中文的对应物没有区别。

Why do children develop so little when they are isolated from others?

但是对于请求,虽然语法上是疑问句的形式,往往也用句号结尾。

Would you give me that book.

中文中比较罕见的是这种连续质问的表达。注意排比的部分因为不是独立句子,首字母并不大写。但系列里面没有这种层层递进的疑问语气的话,还是用逗号连接。

What are the manufacturer's legal responsibilities? moral responsibilities? financial responsibilities?
Will the agent be submitting the manuscript to one publishing house, two houses, or more?

对于引文有疑问意味或引文和句子整体都有疑问意味的,问号置于引号里。对于仅是句子整体有疑问意味的,问号置于引号外。

In a dream, Abraham Lincoln remembered a stranger asking, "Why are you so common looking?"
Don't you find it insulting that a person would comment directly to a president, "Why are you so common looking?"
Was it Lincoln who observed, "The Lord prefers common-looking people"?

务必不要将问号与句号、逗号或感叹号连用。

"Are you going with him?!" asked John.
"Are you going with him?" asked John.
"Are you going with him!" asked John.

感叹号(exclamation point)

对于留学文书和学术写作,一般应避免感叹号的过多出现。对于主题和论点的强调在更多时候应该通过精妙的选词和论证来达到。在模拟口语的语气时,可以适度使用感叹号。

Enterprising archaeologists visit their dentists regularly, if only to obtain supplies of worn-out dental instruments, which make first-rate fine digging tools!
Please! Let me do it myself!

逗号(comma)

英语中最常用的标点非逗号莫属。逗号在英语句子中用来体现某些元素、词语或短语因为特殊原因而与句子主干分隔开来。

对于引导句子的修饰语,用逗号分隔,但对于句末的修饰语则不用。

Yesterday, the faucet stopped working.
Once the weather turned cold, the faucet stopped working.
According to Robert, urban shopping centers could learn a lot from malls.

对于表示逻辑关系的词,不论在句首、句中还是句末,均用逗号分隔。

Actually, we've had this problem for years.
Lipid molecules, of course, and molecules that dissolve easily in lipids can pass through cell membranes with ease.
Lipid molecules and molecules that dissolve easily in lipids can pass through cell membranes with ease, to cite two examples.

对于带有定义、对比或例外意味的修饰成分,用逗号分隔。

The literary form short story is usually defined as a brief fictional prose narrative, often involving one connected episode.
The U.S. government chose Texas, not Vermont, as the site of a lucrative project.
The children of the rich are the group most likely to go to private preparatory schools and elite colleges, regardless of their grades.

连接两个独立从句的并列连词(coordinating conjunction)前需要有逗号。

The faucet stopped working, and the sink leaks.
We can fix the problems ourselves, or we can call a plumber.

但是从句本身带有逗号的,要升格连词前的标点为分号。

Several thousand years ago, probably some lines of Neanderthal man and woman died out; but it seems likely that a line in the Middle East went directly to us, Homo sapiens.

逗号被用来分隔一个系列中的各个项目。建议and前加逗号。分号升格的规则同样适用。

We'll need a washer, a valve, and a wrench.
Booms and busts have plagued economic activity since the onset of industrialization, sporadically ejecting many workers from their jobs, pushing many businesses into bankruptcy, and leaving many politicians out in the cold.

逗号可以在没有连词的情况下分隔并列的形容词。但注意两个形容词连在一起并不意味者它们就是并列的。

Getting under the sink can be a tricky, messy job.
The wise, old lady believe that soldiers will return tomorrow.
The wise old lady believe that soldiers will return tomorrow.

对于补充说明的成分,使用逗号分隔。但是作为句子含义必须的一部分,删去会导致表意不明的,则不使用逗号。因此在特定情况下,是否使用逗号会造成语境上的区别。

Ahorn Hardware, which is just around the corner, will have the materials I need.
The hardware store which is just around the corner will have the materials I need.
The students who have band practice after school cannot attend the game. (需要排练的那部分学生不能参加比赛)
The students, who have band practice after school, cannot attend the game. (学生们因为排练而不能参加比赛)

逗号可以用来体现同位语或解释说明。但同位语本身有逗号的,则升格使用破折号。

The reasons she gave, all three of them, were convincing.
A bungled affair from start to finish, the police investigation of the Borden case overlooked crucial evidence.
Lizzie Borden, despite the weight of evidence against her, was acquitted.
Motion sickness, nausea, dizziness, and sleepiness, is a dangerous and common malady among astronauts.
Motion sickness---nausea, dizziness, and sleepiness---is a dangerous and common malady among astronauts.


对于逗号的一些较为罕见的用法,以及其他一些不常用到但仍然很重要的英文标点,我们将在标点符号篇(下)继续。

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陈 欣

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