When I'm editing people's writing, I recently started writing the comment "put an article here" rather than "put a 'the' or 'a' here".

Similarly, right now I have to put, "you need a comma or period here" ... is there one word that can encompass both 'comma' and 'period'? I don't want to put something so general like "you need a punctuation mark here"

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    I'm afraid such a term does not exist. You can just say "article" because the choice is limited to the or a/an, but for punctuation marks you are either specific or you refer to a wide variety of them.
    – Paola
    Commented Jun 30, 2012 at 22:54
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    Too Localised. There no sense in trying to distinguish 'comma' and 'period' from all other punctuation marks in the first place, let alone find a unique identifier for just those two (though we could just call them the two smallest punctuation marks, being the primary distinguishing feature! :) Commented Jun 30, 2012 at 23:20
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    It's a reasonable question. Punctuation marks do group; semicolons, periods, question marks, and exclamation points are all full stop markers, for instance -- they end complete clauses. But there's no term for comma and period. If you're editing them, tell them exactly what to do unless you want them to do it the same next time. Commented Jul 1, 2012 at 1:36
  • Put simply, Commas and Periods perform very different functions, so would not belong as a pair in such a way.
    – Karl
    Commented Jul 1, 2012 at 6:19
  • @Karl: Perhaps so, but the O.P.'s problem could still exist in other forms (such as a need for a period or a semi-colon).
    – J.R.
    Commented Jul 1, 2012 at 8:39

1 Answer 1


Are you familiar with proofreading shorthand, a.k.a. editing marks? The figure below contains a small sampling of standard notations:

enter image description here

If you want to be more elaborate – such as when you want to express, "You need a comma or period here," – that may call for some inventiveness. For example, you could use something like:

enter image description here

Or, you could be even more general than that – I think this would do the trick:

enter image description here

I realize this doesn't answer your original question (looking for generic word such as delimeter), but it might solve your problem nonetheless.

  • Thank you. Unfortunately the people with whom I interact won't know what to do if they saw their document returned with some of those markings. Maybe I could put a "legend" at the beginning to help. Though that legend might contain some of my own changes (I prefer a line with an arrow at both ends for the 'transpose' notation). I ended up putting "put a comma or period here" , but would still like to know if such a word exists .. I can see it being useful in other contexts. 'Delimiters' is the best suggestion so far, but not quite what I'm looking for =) Commented Jul 2, 2012 at 19:41
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    You can always find an online guide (such as the one where I took that screen shot), and then simply compose one statement along the lines of, "If you have trouble understanding the notation in this review, simply visit ccc.commnet.edu/writing/symbols.htm ". If I were in your shoes, I'd be tempted to print such a sentence on labels, and then slap a label on each reviewed work. Better yet, make your own legend, rather than use an online one (so that you can customize it however you'd like), then make it available on Google docs or something.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jul 3, 2012 at 0:11
  • Thanks! Good advice. Now to think of a word to coin that fills in the hole in the English dictionary referred to in my question. Hmmmm... Commented Jul 3, 2012 at 11:08

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