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Punctuation (with Examples)
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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 ErrorsNumber /50
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
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.
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.
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See Alsothe top 10 Punctuation errors How to use apostrophes How to use round parentheses (brackets) How to use square parentheses (brackets) How to use colons How to use commas How to use dashes What is ellipsis? When to use exclamation marks How to use hyphen Using periods (full stops) When to use question marks How to use quotation marks How to use semicolons Glossary of grammatical terms