In the article below I am going to describe most used punctuation marks in writing. Indeed, punctuation marks are the most important aspect of writing. However, you write good passages and paragraphs, but without using accurate punctuation marks your article looks awkward. Punctuation marks are used to create a sense, clarity and stress in sentences, use punctuation marks to structure and organize your writing. Consider the example below:
- Your bike, Ali.
- Your bike, Ali?
Although the words are same here, the two sentences mean completely different things because of the period (or full stop) and the question mark.
Here we will look at all punctuation marks with explanations and illustrations, hope they will be useful for you to use punctuation marks in your writing so on.
17 Punctuation Marks in English
1. Full stop / period ( . )
a) Use a full stop at the end of a sentence:
The rioters were taken away by force.
b) Use full stops with abbreviations (a short form of a word).
Co. (Company) etc. (et cetera) M.P. (Member of Parliament)
c) Do not use full stops with following contractions.
He’s, She’s, they’re, it’s, I’m etc.
2. Comma ( , )
A comma in writing is like a pause inside a sentence when speaking. Put a space after a comma. Do not put a space before a comma, and use it in the following situations.
a) Use a comma between items in a series or list. In a sentence, the last two items usually do not need a comma between them as they are separated by “and”.
My favorite foods are: beryani, vegetables, ham, and chicken.
b) Use a comma between three or more adjectives or adverbs.
I like the old, brown, wooden table.
He ran quickly, quietly and effortlessly.
c) For two adjectives, use a comma where you could use “and”.
It was a lovely, short performance. (It was a lovely and shot performance).
I have a big black dog. (I have a big and black dog.)
d) Use a comma in numbers over 999. (In English, commas separate thousands and periods separate decimals.
1,000 1,557 10.5 (ten point five) 1.5 (one point five)
e) Use a comma for addresses, some dates, and titles following a name.
Street#10, Block#3, Hazara Town, Quetta.
Feb 23, 2016 (but 23 Feb 2916).
f) Use a comma before or after direct speech. Do not use a comma for reported speech.
He said,”I am going to the cinema.”
He said that he was going to the cinema.
g ) Use a comma before a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) to join two independent clauses. If the independent clauses are short and well-balanced, a comma is optional.
He didn’t want to go, but he went anyway.
I want to work as an interpreter, so I am studying English at university.
She is kind so she helps people.
h) Use commas for parenthetical elements. A “parenthetical element” is any part of a sentence that can be removed without changing the real meaning of the sentence.
Zahra, my wife’s brother, cannot come.
Zahra (my wife’s brother) cannot come.
i) Use a comma after an introductory element. A comma is optional for short, simple introductory elements.
Trying to get to the in time, they forgot to take their ticket.
As the year came to an end, he realized the days were getting shorter.
j) Sentence adverbs (words like however, unfortunately, surprisingly that modify a whole sentence) often require one or two commas, depending on their position in the sentence.
However, we played well in the match.
They, surprisingly, won the match.
k) An adverbial clause often needs a comma when it comes at the beginning of a sentence (but not at the end of a sentence).
If I win the lottery, I will buy a car.
I will buy a car if I win the lottery.
l) Do not use a comma to separate two complete sentences. In this case, use a full stop (period) or semi-colon.
I want to hang out with my friends. My brother wants to stay home.
3. Semi- Colon ( ; )
a) We sometimes use a semi-colon instead of a full stop or period. This is to separate sentences that are grammatically independent, but that have closely connected meaning.
I like beryani; my brothers like spaghetti.
Ali is a good speaker; he speaks very clearly.
b) Use a semi-colon as a kind of “super comma”. When we have a list of items, we usually separate the items with commas. If the list is complicated, we may prefer to use semi-colons in some cases.
IELTS has test centers in many locations: Australia, London; Pakistan & India; and Manchester, Iran and Turkey.
4. Colon ( : )
a) Use a colon to introduce a list:
There are three main regions in Hazara Town: Aliabad, Brewery and Kirani.
b) Actually, you can use a colon to introduce a single item, especially when you want to emphasize that item:
I would like to call the director of the academy: Sir Ali.
c) Use a colon to introduce direct speech or a quotation:
He stood up and said loudly: “Ladies and Gentlemen, please be seated.”
d) Use a colon to introduce an explanation:
We had to postpone the test: many students agreed.
5. Hyphen ( – )
a) Use a hyphen to make compound modifiers before nouns:
The boring-math teacher.
The well-known actor.
b) Use a hyphen with certain prefixes. The prefixes all-, ex-, and self- usually need a hyphen:
All-inclusive ex-president self-control
c) Use a hyphen when writing numbers 21 to 99, and fractions:
Twenty-five one hundred and sixty-one Two-thirds
d) Use a hyphen to show that a word has been broken at the end of a line (hyphenation):
Ladies and gentleman today, this evening has brou-
ght within its flawless festivities and exiting enjoyment.
6. Dash (_)
a) Use a dash to show a pause or break in meaning in the middle of a sentence:
My brothers—Ali and Sakhi—are visiting Taj Mahal. (Could use commas.)
b) Use a dash like a colon to introduce a list:
Don’t forget to buy some food—eggs, bread, tuna and cheese.
c) Use a dash to show that letters or words are missing:
7. Question Mark ( ? )
a) Use a question mark at the end of all direct questions:
What is your name?
b) Don’t forget to use a question mark at the end of a sentence that really is a direct question:
What if I said to you, “I will not let you go”?
c) In very informal writing (personal letter or email), people sometimes use a question mark to turn a statement into a question:
See you at 9 pm?
d) In the same situation, they may use two or three question marks together to show that they are not sure about something:
I think we can meet tomorrow at 5 o’clock???
e) Many polite requests or instructions are made in the form of a question. But because they are not really questions, they do not take a question mark:
Could you please tell me where the bank is.
8. Exclamation Mark (Exclamation Point) ( ! )
a) Use an exclamation mark to indicate strong feelings or a raised voice in speech:
He exclaimed: “What a fantastic day we have!”
b) Many interjections need an exclamation mark:
Hi! Oh! Ouch! That hurt. Wow!
9. Slash Forward Slash ( / )
a) A slash is often used to indicate “or”:
Dear Sir/Madam (Sir or Madam)
b) Use a slash for fractions:
1/2 (one half) 2/3 (two thirds)
c) Use a slash to indicate “per” in measurements of speed, prices etc.
The speed limit is 100 km/h. (Kilometers per hour)
He can type at 75 w/m. (Words per minute)
d) People often use a slash in certain abbreviations:
This is my a/c number. (Account) w/o (without) S/o (someone)
e) A slash is often used in dates to separate day, month and year:
10. Back Slash ( \ )
a) The backslash is used in several computer systems, and in many programming languages. It is commonly seen on Windows computers:
11. Quotation Marks (Inverted Commas) (“….”)
a) Use quotation marks around the title or name of a book, film, ship etc.
The popular film of Bollywood “PK”
b) We use quotation marks around a piece of text that we are quoting or citing, usually from another source:
David Crystal argues that punctuation “plays a critical role in the modern writing system”.
c) Use quotation marks around dialogue or direct speech:
She said,”I have completed my assignment”.
d) Use quotation marks around a word or phrase that we want to make “special,” in some way: Note that sometimes we use “italics” instead of quotation marks.
Remember, if the quoted words end with a full stop, then the full stop goes inside the quotation marks. If the quoted words do not end with a full stop, then the full stop goes outside the quotation marks:
He said: “I like you.”
She has read “War and Peace”.
12. Single Quotation (‘….’)
a) We use quotation marks to show (or mark) the beginning and end of a word or phrase that is somehow special or comes from outside the text that we are writing.
Quotation marks can be double (“…”) or single (‘…’).
b) If we want to use quotation marks inside quotation marks, then we use single inside double, or double inside single.
He said to her: ‘I thought “PK” was a good film.’
He said to her: “I thought ‘PK’ was a good film.”
13. Apostrophe ( ‘ )
a) Use an apostrophe in possessive forms:
Ali’s book Zahra’s sister My friend’s mother
b) Use an apostrophe in contracted forms (the apostrophe shows that letters have been left out):
Cannot → can’t they have → they’ve I would (or I had) → I’d
It is (or it has) → it’s who is → who’s
c) Some people use an apostrophe when the first two figures of a year are left out:
1948 → ’48 1990 → ’90
d) You can use an apostrophe to show the plural of letters and numbers:
You should dot your T’s and cross your P’s.
Do you like music from the 1950’s?
e) When you use an apostrophe in possessive forms referring to plural, then put it after s.
Teachers’ attendance sheet
14. Underline (Underscore) ( __ )
a) An underline is a horizontal line immediately below a piece of writing. In handwriting, we traditionally use underlining to indicate emphasis:
The meeting will start at 9 : 30 sharp.
15. Round Brackets Parentheses ( ) Name= parentheses and British = brackets
a) Round brackets are basically used to add extra information to a sentence.
Ali (the former director of the academy) resigned from the academy in 2007.
b) Indicate plural or singular
Please leave your mobile telephone(s) at the door.
c) Add a personal comment
Many people love parties (I don’t).
d) Define abbreviations
We will invite the P.M (Prime Minister)
16. Square brackets or brackets [ ]
a) We typically use square brackets when we want to modify another person’s word. Here, we want to make it clear that the modification has been made by us, not by the original writer.
To add clarification: Manzoor said: “He [the teacher] hit me.”
To add missing words: It is [a] good task.
b) To modify a direct quotation:
He “love[s] exercising.” (The original words were “I love exercising.”)
17. Ellipsis Mark (…)
The ellipsis mark consists of three dots (periods).
a) We use the ellipsis mark in place of missing words. If we intentionally omit one or more words from an original text, we replace them with an ellipsis mark.
“The articles focused on using punctuation marks in…to be useful.”
Here The new sentence still makes sense, but the ellipsis mark shows the reader that something is missing.
I hope the explanations about the punctuation marks mentioned above may benefit for your writing. All you need to do is to use these punctuation marks in your writing in order to be a good author.