Punctuation is using special signs, and certain typographical devices to help the understanding and correct reading of written texts.

Punctuation Marks in English

What Is Punctuation?

Punctuation is the use of conventional signs to understand and read a text correctly. Notice that there is no space before punctuation marks in the English language.
Here is a list of all punctuation signs:

1. Full Stop

Full stop is also called (period) in American English. it is a punctuation sign that is used at the end of a statement or an abbreviation. (when you make a word shorter). We should remember that there is no space before full stop and one space after it, know that the first letter after the full stop must be capitalized.
There are three kinds of abbreviation:

  1. Ones that there are no full stops in them. Like CIA, CNN, KTV
  2. Ones that always have full stops. Like e.g. i.e. or etc.
  3. Ones that sometimes have and sometimes don't have the full stops. Like Mr. Mr / a.m AM / Dr. Dr/ p.m. PM

In British English titles are usually written without the full stops, and written with the full stops in American English.
In British English usually write a.m and p.m in lowercase and with full stops. In American English usually write them in uppercase letters and without full stops. They both are correct and you can use how you want.

I know you well.

She understood what you have said.


Some abbreviations take the full stop.

2. Question Mark & Exclamation Mark

Question mark (?) is used at the end of a direct question whether it starts with a wh-word or not. The direct question is a statement that asks a question directly from the addressee. For example:

Where are you?

Are you ok?

An exclamation mark (!) is used in at the end of a sentence expressing strong emotions such as anger, surprise, joy, etc. Notice that what and how can be used at the beginning of a sentence to make an exclamatory phrase.

Oh non! I can't believe it!

The speaker maybe has confronted a strange thing.

What a mistake!

How stupid you are!

3. Comma

Commas have three main jobs:

  1. Use to separate items on the list
  2. They come before certain conjunctions (and-but-so-or)
  3. To add non-essential information

Use to separate items on the list

We use comma to seperate items on a list, we should know that the last item on the list comes with an "and" before it.

I have bought some rice, milk, bananas and bread.

We need to take water, fruits. sleeping bags, can food and tent for camping.

using comma to separate the items of a list

They come before certain conjunctions

We can use comma before certain conjunctions: and-but-so-or
let's see the examples:

you can tell her, but she'll get upset.

This was his last chance, so he took it.


To add non-essential information

For that we can use a comma or even two commas. (non-essential information means that you can remove this without changing the main meaning of the sentence.)

Usually, I go to school.

after adverbs, non-essential

Apparently, he was a very good painter.

Beijing, which is the capital of China, has a mixture of modern and ancient architecture.

There are also many other uses of commas, comma is used to tell the date, numbers. Comma is used after adverbss (also considered non-essential). Comma is used in direct speeches. Comma is used to group adjectives. You can see some examples below:



April the first, 1999, she left him.


He said, "I am not going to do that."

in direct speeches

There was a big, fascinating, marvelous wedding there.

To group adjectives

4. Colons & Semicolons

Colons (:) are used to introduce examples, explanations or details. we need to find the main idea before the colons and we can see the explanation right after it. Colons can be used to introduce a list, a dialogue, a title or to put an emphasis as well.

The power outage has caused many problems: darkness, burnt out (broken) electric devices, disrupt transportation and so on.

So here we see the general idea is the power outage problems, and after the colons we can see the explanations or examples.

I can be sure of one thing: she won't let you to get a dog.

What we need for the cake is: butter, flour, water, etc.

introducing a list

She played: 3GA.

introducing a title

What I wanted was: the university.

put an emphasis

Semicolons (;) are are very similar to a full stop, they used at the end of a full sentence, but there are differences of course; the semi-colon shows that the sentence bore and after the semi-colon are connected and have the same idea. For example:

The weather is so hot; it's impossible to get out of the house without getting a heatstroke.

As you can see before and after the semi-colon both have the idea of the heat.

To be precise:
Semicolons are used to join two independent clauses or they are used:

  1. Before conjunctive adverbs, like however, thereafter, therefor, etc.
  2. Before coordinating conjunctions like but, or, and.

We couldn't go; however, we really wanted to.

conjunctive adverbs

We were looking for what they called us for; and the result was disappointing.

coordinating conjunctions

5. Quotation Mark

Quotation marks ('') are used when there is a direct speech. They are also used to avoid repetition in a list.There are two kinds of speech marks single (‘) and double (“). They usually do the same thing and it doesn't matter which one do you use. But there are places that it’s better to use one of them in particular (even though using the other one won't make it wrong, it’s just better) . It’s better to use double speech marks when you quoting what someone said.

He laughed and saidyou’ll kill me with these jokes”.

before speech marks you can out a comma, a colon or nothing. Usually it's more common to use a comma but using nothing is more efficient.

She asked," Who is the lead actor."

direct speech

Here is another example:

names of fathers
Steve Max
Rhone ''
Mia ''

When we want to put emphasis on a word or phrase in a sentence, we use single quotation marks. For example:

This is a sentence where 'adverb' plays the central role.

We can use the speech mark to show irony, skepticism and sarcasm.

My “friends” left me there all alone.

here friends in quotation marks show so-called friends meaning they weren't really being friends at that time.

The “clean” sheets smelled like mold.

The so-called clean sheets, meaning they weren't clean.

You can also use the quotation marks when the words not being used in their literal meaning.

The tv ‘knows’ when I have homework, it starts playing all the good shows.

Clearly the tv cannot know anything, it's just to show metaphorically.

You can use the quotation marks when you refer to words as ‘words’ and not for what they mean.

How do you spell ‘whitening’?

we don't say the word forwhat it means and we show it by using the quotation marks.

6. Hyphens & Dashes

Even though hyphens and dashes look a lot alike, but they are different and have many different uses.


We have two kind of dashes en dashes (–) and em dashes (—).

  • En dashes (–) is used to replace the word "and"," through" and "to" in situations like numerical ranges, describing directions, relationships, or scores

The world war one (19141918) was a great disaster.

Midwest-southwest bridge

Sometimes (in British English the en dash does the same thing as the em dash in these cases there are spaces on both sides of the en dash). To add extra information to the sentence (yes, commas do that too). Dashes are preferable when the information we adding doesn't fit well (grammatically or just doesn't flow with the sentence).

Jeff – who is my best friend – already went back home.

  • Em dashes (—) work like parenthesis and commas ( adding non-essential information to the sentence) and as we mentioned earlier this usually is when the information we adding doesn't fit well (grammatically or just doesn't flow with the sentence). The em dashes can both use with space on either side or without spaces. Depends on the style of the writing.

My best friend—who I haven't seen in years—got married yesterday.

Years ago — never mind how long precisely — I thought I could run all around the globe.

using dashes makes the sentence clearer cause the reader won't have to think about why the punctuation is there.

We can also use dashes when repeating an emphatic part or phrase in a sentence. In this case, we can use a dash at the beginning of the emphatic part. Check out these examples:

The beautiful sky—the clear blue sky—was her dream.

Notice that there is no space before and after a dash.


The first thing about hyphens (-) is they are not the same as dashes (–) , (—). Hyphens are used to:

  • make compound modifiers before a noun

It is a short-term plan.

I went for a full-body massage.

  • Compound adjectives with nouns

Why are you wearing these old-fashioned clothes?

Have you seen that six-feet girl?

I saw my ex-wife yesterday.

She is a self-made girl.

  • Clarity and readability

I will re-design the whole place.

meaning to design again

They wanted to re-elect him.

Rather than writing reelect which is hard to read.

7. Brackets, Braces, & Parentheses

There are four types of brackets:

  1. square brackets [ ]
  2. curly brackets { } or braces
  3. angle brackets < >
  4. round brackets that are also called parentheses ( )

Square brackets are use to give Information, comments, or definition in a sentence:

They said the [cancer] patients are not satisfied with the services.


We need a doctor [an expert] to do the surgery.


The indolent [lazy] man spent all day at home.


Braces are usually used in mathematical, chemical, and statistical equations.

2{1 + [32 + 3]}

Round brackets or parentheses are used in two cases:
1. Giving Information (date/answer/statistics).
2. Setting off Numbers and Letters (give options).

The doctors did what was possible (they couldn't do more).

Giving Information

The world war one (1914–1918) was a great disaster.


Remember to take: (1) pen (2) ruler (3) hair brush.

Three items are needed: pen, ruler, hair brush

Write your opinion(s) here.

the reader can choose how to read it.


Try to avoid using parenthesis to write long ideas in your sentences, for that you can use commas or dashes accordingly.

8. Apostrophe

Apostrophe (') is used in two cases:
1. Replacing Missing Letters
2. Showing Possessive Nouns

Isn’t → is not

missing letters

Sarah's father

possessive nouns


We can never use apostrophe to make plurals, unless we are making a letter plural, For example:

How many M’s are there in ‘common’?


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Full Stops

A full stop or period is usually used to show the end of a sentence. In this lesson, we will learn all about this punctuation mark.

Question Marks and Exclamation Marks

Question mark and exclamation mark is used in the sentences to show their sense. They function in writing forms. Here we will get to their rules.


A comma indicates a pause between the words, phrases, and clauses. In this lesson, we will all the rules about this punctuation mark.

Colons and Semicolons

Colons and semi-colons are used to make it easy for us to understand and read a passage. In this lesson, we will learn all about them.

Quotation Marks

Quotation marks are punctuations that are used to express a direct speech, phrase, or quotation. In this lesson, we will learn all about them.

Hyphens and Dashes

Hyphens and dashes have to be used properly as punctuation marks to avoid confusion. In this lesson, we will learn all about them.

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