Punctuation (with Examples)
PunctuationPunctuation is the use of conventional characters (e.g., commas, semicolons) to improve clarity. In general, punctuation aids comprehension by showing a reader which words are grouped and where to pause.
The Main Punctuation Marks
- Here are the main punctuation marks in English grammar:
- apostrophes (')
- parentheses (round) ( ( ) )
- parentheses (square) ( [ ] )
- colons (:)
- commas (,)
- dashes (–, —)
- ellipsis (...)
- exclamation mark (!)
- hyphen (-)
- periods (full stops) (.)
- question marks (?)
- quotation marks("")
- semicolons (;)
Punctuation Use and ExamplesBelow is a handy summary of how each of the main punctuation marks is used. There are easy examples as well as links to pages offering more detail and more examples.
- Apostrophes are used:
- one dog's kennel, two dogs' kennel
- a day's holiday, two weeks' pay
- can't, don't, isn't
- Apostrophes are NOT used:
- three dog's , two patio's
- She like's cakes.
- Colons are used:
- I need just one personal trait: loyalty.
- I've seen the following: rust, slime, and a rat.
- Read Genesis 1:1 before 09:00.
- He said: "Laugh at yourself first, before anyone else can."
Fun WidgetBefore we look at the other types of punctuation, here is a widget that shows 50 writing mistakes involving punctuation:
50 Punctuation Errors
An Explanation of the Mistake
An Example of the Mistake
Severity of the Mistake
- A comma is used:
- Now she is wiser, she understands.
- However, I now agree with you.
- Crikey, it's true!
- She likes pies, and she likes cakes.
- Peter and John, who live next door, love my pies.
- bread, honey, and jam
- A, B, C, and D, are essential qualifications.
- I know your uncle, Sarah.
- She whispered, "I know."
- Hyphens are joiners. They are used:
- seven-foot table, silver-service banquet
- paper-clip, cooking-oil
- ultra-expensive, re-establish
Read more about using hyphens.
Parentheses (Round Brackets)
- Round parentheses (round brackets) are used:
- To insert extra information (often an afterthought, clarification, or expansion of a recently mentioned idea)
- Set in the 17th century, The Three Musketeers ("Les Trois Mousquetaires" in French) is a novel by Alexandre Dumas.
- Your guest(s) must leave before midnight.
- Square parentheses (square brackets) are used:
- To make quoted text clearer by expanding on or replacing part of the quote.
- If you don't like them [my principles], well, I have others.
- In your statement, you wrote: "I appraised [sic] him of the situation at about 4 o'clock."
Period (Full Stop)
- A period (.) (or full stop in the UK) is a punctuation mark used:
- I eat pies.
- Please use the bathroom upstairs.
- B.B.C., Prof.
- Semicolons are used:
- Peter, the officer in charge; Colin, the chef; and Heidi, my dog
- It was freezing; however, we still enjoyed it.
- Yesterday, it was, to our surprise, sunny; but today, as expected, it's dull.
Read more about using semicolons.
- Quotation marks (or speech marks as they're also called) are used:
- Reagan said: "You can tell a lot about a fellow's character by his way of eating jellybeans."
- I was certain the "Spruce Goose" was too heavy to fly.