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Spelling and Punctuation


Capitals are used in:

the first letter of a sentence
De tafel is van hout. - The table is made of wood.
the first letter of the first word of a quote (within a sentence)
Hij zei: ‘Dag.’ - He said: ‘Bye.’
names of persons. Don’t use an article (de, het, een) for a name.
Peter Visser, meneer Visser - Peter Visser, Mr. Visser
mevrouw Van Dijk, meneer Van Dijk, Wim van Dijk - Mrs. Van Dijk, Mr. Van Dijk, Wim van Dijk
names of companies and brands
Boeing, 3M, Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij - Boeing, 3M, Royal Aviation Company (KLM)
title(s) of the creator. Don’t use the article (de).
God - God
title(s) of kings, queens, etc.
Hare Majesteit, Uwe Koninklijke Hoogheid - Her Majesty, Your Royal Highness
geographical names. Use an article for mountains and lakes.
Den Haag, New York, Afrika, de Mount Everest - The Hague, New York, Africa, the Mount Everest
(some) abbreviations
the first word of the title of a document
Italiaanse recepten voor vier personen - Italian Recipes for Four Persons

Capitals are not used in:

names of days of the week
zondag, maandag - Sunday, Monday
names of the months
november, december - November, December
proper nouns, derived from a name or brand
jerrycan, spa, saxofoon - jerrycan (container), Spa (drink), saxophone (musical instrument)
(some) abbreviations
m.a.w. , zondag jl. , enz. , km , tl-buis - in other words, last Sunday, etcetera, kilometers, tl-tube


The dot (.) and the comma (,) are used in Dutch numbers, but not as in English.
Fractions are written to the right of a comma.
Het gewicht is 0,34 gram. - The weight is 0.34 grams.
Het gewicht is 760,34 gram. - The weight is 760.34 grams.

Large numbers are divided in parts of three digits, separated by dots. If a number is not very large a dot is not really necessary.
Dat schip kost 1.000.000 euro. - That ship costs 1,000,000 (one million) euros.
Ik heb 6.000 bestanden op mijn harde schijf gezet. - I have put 6,000 files on my hard disk.
Ik heb 6000 bestanden op mijn harde schijf gezet. - I have put 6000 files on my hard disk.

Punctuation in a Sentence

The end of a sentence is marked by a dot, or by another symbol. When the sentence is not complete the symbol is omitted, for example in the title of this chapter. We use a dot (.), a question mark (?) or an exclamation mark (!).
Ik kom. - I come.
Kom je? - Will you come?
Kom! - Come!

A dot is also used in abbreviations.
Ik zag ganzen, eenden, fazanten, enz. - I saw goose, ducks, pheasants, etc.
Dat is goed, m.a.w. ik betaal wel. - That is okay, in other words: I’ll pay for it.

The semicolon (;) can be used instead of a dot at the end a sentence. In that case, the two sentences are tied together. This is done rarely.
Het is geen hard geluid; niemand hoort het. - It is not a loud noise; nobody hears it.

The colon (:) is used to start a list.
Ik noem er vier: die, deze, dat en dit. - I mention four: those, these, that, and this.
The colon can start a quotation.
Hij zei: ‘Toch bedankt.’ - He said: ‘Thanks anyway.’

The comma (,) is used to split the sentence in logical parts. The subsentence starts after the comma.
Ik ben te laat, omdat het glad is op straat. - I am late, because the streets are icy.
The comma (,) is used between adjectives, when the adjectives apply to the same thing, or person.
De lange, lawaaierige trein. - The long, noisy train.
The comma is placed at the end of a quote, when the sentence continues after the quote.
‘Dat weet ik niet,’ zei ze. - ‘I don’t know,’ she said.

Quotes (‘ and ’) are used to quote. The double quotes (“ and ”) are used less often. (Note the word order of zei hij and Hij zei.)
‘Mag ik u iets vragen?’ zei hij. ‘Waar is de bushalte?’ - ‘May I ask you something?’ he said. ‘Where is the bus stop?’
‘Dat weet ik niet,’ zei ze. - ‘I don’t know,’ she said.
Hij zei tegen haar: ‘Toch bedankt.’ - He said to her: ‘Thanks anyway.’
Quotes are also used to make clear that the writer disagrees with a word or phrase mentioned between the quotes.
Dat is ‘slim’. - That is ‘smart’.

Titles of books, movies, articles, plays, etc. are often printed in italics. (The name of the book means Rivers in the Netherlands)
Dat boek heet Rivieren in Nederland. - The name of that book is Rivieren in Nederland.

Brackets are applied sometimes. Most of the time, it is better to use commas instead.
Alle deelnemers (voor zover aanwezig) krijgen een landkaart. - All participants (when present) receive a map.
Dashes are rarely used instead of brackets.
Vorig jaar heb ik - meer dan ooit - gemerkt hoe belangrijk dat is. - Last year I noticed - more than ever - how important that is.

An ellipsis (three dots in a row) is used to indicate a sentence is not complete or paused, because the speaker stopped talking. In the following dialogue the first speaker is interrupted by the second.
‘Wat ik graag zou willen is een...’ zei ze. - ‘What I would like much is a...’ she said.
‘Een verse salade?’ vroeg hij. - ‘A fresh salad?’ he asked.

Square brackets are used when omitting a part of a quote. Write [...] to replace the omitted words.
Volgens hem waren er [...] Nederlanders aanwezig. - According to him [...] Dutch people were present.
The complete sentence is:
Volgens hem waren er Duitsers, Denen en Nederlanders aanwezig. - According to him Germans, Danes and Dutch people were present.

Punctuation within a Word

A word can have a hyphen (-) in it. This dash is used to prevent that two vowels are pronounced as if there is just one vowel. It occurs in compound words.
auto-ongeluk - car accident
zee-egel - sea urchin
micro-organisme - micro organism

A hyphen (-) can be used when a part of a compound word is left out to shorten the sentence. This can only occur when another compound word is still complete.
de linker- en rechterkant - the left side and right side

A diaeresis is placed on the first letter of a syllable to prevent that two vowels are pronounces as if there is just one syllable.
calorieën - calories

A word can have an apostrophe (’), like plural words that end with a, i, o, u, or y.
satellietfoto’s - satellite images

An apostrophe (’) can show that some letters are dropped. The original words do not exist anymore in these cases. The word d’r (her) only appears in spoken language. The common alternative is haar (her).
d’r jas - her coat
’s morgens - in the morning
’s middags - in the afternoon
’s avonds - in the evening

But sometimes the unabbreviated word still exists and is more important that the abbreviation. The abbreviations mentioned here occur in spoken language.
’t huis, het huis - the house, the house
m’n schoenen, mijn schoenen - my shoes, my shoes
z’n zoon, zijn zoon - his son, his son

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