Punctuation Explained (with Examples)

Punctuation Explained (with Examples)

Punctuation 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 characters are: Apostrophes are used: Apostrophes are not used: Read more about using apostrophes.

The Top 50 Punctuation Errors
Number /50 ( Section)

An Explanation of the Mistake

An Example of the Mistake

Severity of the Mistake

You'll be
You'll be
You'll look
You'll look
Colons are used: Read more about using colons.

A comma is used: Read more about using commas.

Hyphens are joiners. They are used: Their main purpose is to show the joined words are a single entity (e.g., a single adjective or a single noun). They are also useful to avoid ambiguity (e.g., a hyphen makes it clear that a paper-clip is a clip for paper and not a clip made of paper).

Read more about using hyphens.

Round parentheses (brackets) are used:
  • To insert extra information (often an afterthought, clarification, or expansion of a recently mentioned idea)
  • (e.g., Set in the 17th century, The Three Musketeers ("Les Trois Mousquetaires" in French) is a novel by Alexandre Dumas.)
  • To present a plural option with a singular one
  • (e.g., Your guest(s) must leave before midnight.)
Read more about using round parentheses.

Square parentheses (brackets) are used:
  • To make quoted text clearer by expanding on or replacing part of the quote.
  • (e.g., If you don't like them [my principles], well, I have others.)
  • To make it clear that terms like [sic] and [...] are insertions by the current author not the originator.
  • (e.g., In your statement, you wrote: "I appraised [sic] him of the situation at about 4 o'clock.")
Read more about using square parentheses.

A period (.) (or full stop in the UK) is a punctuation mark used: Read more about periods / full stops.

Semicolons are used: Semicolons are not used for introductions (e.g., I would blame one thing for my divorce; beer. It should be a colon.)

Read more about using semicolons.

Quotation marks (or speech marks as they're also called) are used: Read more about using quotation marks.
Quick Test

See Also

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