Use of 14 Punctuation Marks
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Introduction to Punctuation Marks

Punctuation marks are symbols that are used to separate or organize, written language to give your writing a professional look. These symbols are used to help clarify the meaning of a text by dividing it into smaller, more manageable pieces. We use these marks to indicate a text’s structure and organization e.g. the end of a sentence, the start of a new paragraph, or to highlight important information, to create pauses or breaks in a text. Besides, punctuation marks make the reader aware of the expression of a sentence. These symbols also show the strength of emotion putting a question, declaring a statement, or indicating a warning.

Fourteen main punctuation marks are commonly used in English grammar. They are the period, question mark, exclamation point, comma, semicolon, colon, dash, hyphen, parentheses, brackets, braces, quotation marks, and ellipsis.

  • The period, question mark, and exclamation point are terminal punctuation marks because they usually come at the end of a sentence.
  • The comma, semicolon, and colon are called internal punctuation marks because they typically come in the middle of a sentence.
  • The dash, hyphens, parentheses, brackets, braces, quotation marks, and ellipsis are called non-terminal or subordinate punctuation marks because they can come in the middle or at the end of a sentence.

Table of Contents

Table of Punctuation Symbols

Sr.Punctuation MarksSymbols
1.Period.
2.Question Mark?
3.Exclamation Mark !
4.Semicolon;
5.Dash
6.Hyphen __
7.Comma,
8.Colon:
9.Brackets[ ]
10.Braces{ }
11.Parenthesis ( )
12.Ellipsis
13.Quotation Marks” “
13.Apostrophe
Table of Fourteen Punctuation Symbols

Usage of Punctuation Marks in Writing

1. Period (.)

A period is usually known as a full stop. It states that the sentence has ended here with the use of a full stop. Also, it expresses a complete thought and declares something in a single sentence.  

A Period has more usages:

a. We use a period at the end of a declarative or imperative sentence.

  • This hero is a man of action.
  •  Kindly hand over this pen to me.

b. The Period is also used in names or titles and initials or abbreviations e.g.

  • Mr. Ahsan
  • M.A. Education
  • Dept. of English
  • Mrs. Khanam is my favorite teacher.
  • Dr. Mehdi is the heart specialist. 

c. We use a period instead of a question mark after an indirect kind of question.

  • She wants to know if you like to go with her.
  • Tell me if you like to visit the zoo.

2. Question Mark (?)

We use a question mark with sentences like:

a. The writers apply a Question mark at the end of a sentence that puts a direct question. The interrogative statement starts with ‘Wh’ words like What, Why, When, Where, and How, etc.

  • Where is your phone?
  • What’s your good name?

b. It is also used in a sentence having more than a single question, each question uses a question mark. But if a question is incomplete unless the last word of the sentence, we put the question mark only at the end.

  • Are you sure of his name? His age? His address?
  • Will you return on Monday, Saturday, or Sunday?

3. Exclamation Mark (!)

    Exclamation Mark is used:

a. We use an exclamation mark at the end of an exclamatory sentence. The sentence expresses intense emotions like anger, love, sadness, happiness, etc.

  • This is an absolutely true story!
  • What an awesome play!

   b.  We can use an Exclamation mark after interjections.

  • Ugh! It’s a very difficult time.
  • Oh! you’re looking awesome.

    c. We need to use the exclamation mark after commands which specify sudden action.

  •  Write as fast as you can!
  • Drink three glasses of water currently!

    d. The exclamation mark used after an interrogative sentence is meant to be exclamatory.

  • Why are you doing that, I don’t know!
  • What’s going on, is out of my control!

4. Comma (,)

We use a comma to show the separation of phrases and ideas within the structure of a sentence by inserting a pause. So, it helps us to understand the actual meaning of a sentence. 

a. The comma is practiced in separate clauses of a sentence. For example:

  • If you go to the market, bring one Kilogram of grain for us.
  • If you help me today, I’ll help your lifetime.

b. Commas are also used to separate alike things. For example:

  • My brother went to the local market and bought fine flour, cooking oil, sugar, tea, cookies, etc.
  • She bought four books, English Grammar, Stories, Modern Essays, and Poetry.

c. We can use a Comma to address someone directly. For example:

  • Listen to me, “You have the right to a good decision.
  • My dear brother, you need to think over it again.

5. Colon (:)

a. We use a Colon to introduce something like: an example, a list of things, a quotation, or an elaboration. For example:

  • He has given three job interviews: software engineering, management, and civil services.
  • You have many choices to opt for a profession: a job, a business, a shop, etc.

b. A colon is also used to connect two independent clauses in case the second clause completes the first one. For example: 

  • I wouldn’t act upon your advice: I’ve already tested you.
  • She will support you well: because you’re a reliable person.

c. A colon may emphasize a particular subject within a sentence. For example:

  • I only love you: my princess, you’re great.
  • We can’t afford this expensive car now: my son, let’s work hard first.

6. Semicolon (;)

a. We use a Semicolon to connect two independent clauses, especially in a complex sentence. For example:

  • She is much busy now; I would not disturb her.
  • Let’s play cricket today; we will enjoy it.

7. Dashes (- —)

These two dashes vary by size and use, one is shorter, and the other is longer. One uses the shorter dash to signify a particular range of numbers and dates. For example:

  • We lived in Lahore from 2010-2020.
  • I’ll see you on Monday, 20-10-2030.

    While we use long dashes in place of commas, colons, or other punctuation marks, etc. For example:

  • You have taken the first step — No doubt, but you need to do more.
  • The principal has heard a noise inside the class I know, she’ll investigate it.

8. Hyphen (-)

When there are two or three words connected, they make use of the hyphen to make a compound word. For example:

  • WI-fi
  • Father-in-Law
  • ice-cream

9. Brackets ([ ])

We use Brackets to explain technical terminology and to make a subject clear to the reader. And, we use it to give references to another text or thing. For example:

  • They [classmates] are not agreeing with me.
  • She says this juice [sugarcane] “is our national beverage”.

10. Braces ({})

a. We use Braces in mathematical questions, scientific text, operations, etc. For example:

  • 3+{a=b}
  • 2+1 {c=d}

11. Parenthesis (())

We put Parenthesis to give additional detail about a particular thing under discussion. For example:

  • My home (which I bought last year) has been locked now.
  • The car (you saw on the road) is a fresh new model of Corolla Motors.

12. Apostrophes (‘)

a. We put apostrophes in the omission of words, to signify possession and contractions. For example:

  • Ahmad’s phone was lost yesterday.
  • It’s our responsibility to provide the team with a bat and ball.
  • Don’t sit back, I can’t afford it, I’m going now, You’re my friend, I Wouldn’t attend the meeting.

b. The apostrophe is also used to indicate more than one copy of a word.

  • The report says that there are five work’s in the paragraph.
  • The V.I.P’s have reached.

c. The apostrophe is further used to show plural or some other kind of abbreviation. For example:

  • The V.I.P’s have reached.
  • I have bought a new WAPDA meter.

13. Quotation Mark (” “)

Quotation Mark has several uses:

a. One of the active uses of Quotation marks is to quote the direct words of a speaker or writer in a speech or text.

  • “Would you take tea?” I asked.
  • “You have given the best of yourself”, said the boss.

b. We put Quotation marks to enclose the titles of stories, chapters, essays, films, etc.

  • Shakespeare has written many plays, including, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
  • Punctuality is the soul of business.

Quotation Marks example

c. Put a comma before the quotation marks end.

  • “We do not try to convert others,” the Salome Follower said. “Only to live our way.
  • “Life is the time”, so don’t waste it in idleness, said, my teacher.

14. Ellipsis (…)

Ellipsis is used as a set of dots to omit words, which we don’t want to repeat in a sentence. With Ellipsis, we can also shorten a quote without distorting its original meaning.

For Example:

  • Before you leave the home… complete your task first...right!
  • I’ll take action… so be aware of it.

Why Should We Use Punctuation Symbols?

Here are four reasons to use punctuation marks:

  1. They help to create meaning.

Punctuation marks help to create meaning by organizing words and ideas. They can signal when a sentence is finished, or indicate a pause.

  1. They can change the tone of a sentence.

Punctuation marks can change the tone of a sentence. For example, an exclamation point can indicate excitement, while a period can indicate finality.

  1. They can be used for emphasis.

Punctuation marks can be used for emphasis. For example, italics or quotation marks can emphasize certain words or phrases.

  1. They are a form of communication.

Punctuation marks are a form of communication. They can be used to communicate the actual meaning of language that can be understood by everyone easily.

Summary of Punctuation Marks

  1. Period. Full Stop
  2. Question Mark? Interrogative Statements
  3. Exclamation Mark! Exclamatory Sentences
  4. Commas, Pauses, and Separation
  5. Colon: To Introduce Something
  6. Semicolon; Connects two independent statements
  7. Dash – — With Numbers and Dates
  8. Hyphen Connects Compound Words
  9. Brackets [ ] Used with technical Terms and for Reference
  10. Braces { } Used with Mathematical and Scientific Text
  11. Parentheses ( ) It gives more Details
  12. Apostrophe– It shows Possession and Omits words
  13. Quotation Marks ” “ -To Quote the Direct Words of the Writer
  14. Ellipsis (…) – Used to Omit Words

By Waqas Sharif

Mr. Waqas Sharif is an English Language Teaching (ELT) Professional, Trainer, and Course Instructor at a Public Sector Institute. He has more than ten years of Eng Language Teaching experience at the Graduate and Postgraduate level. His main interest is found in facilitating his students globally He wishes them to develop academic skills like Reading, Writing, and Communication mastery along with Basics of Functional Grammar, English Language, and Linguistics.

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