Punctuation Rules in English

Are you confused about punctuation in English? Well, then you have come to the right place! I hope to explain punctuation rules briefly with clarity.


My first sentence actually is a question, which is why I ended it with a question mark (?). Unlike some languages, such as Spanish, the question mark simply comes at the end of the sentence. The exclamation mark (!) is used to show excitement, with exclamation, and again goes at the end of the sentence. The second sentence in this article shows how I am stating that you have come to the right place with excitement. The period (.) is used simply to show that the sentence has ended. It is neither a question nor an exclamation, rather simply a statement. The third sentence above shows that as an example.


 Next, I would like to explain the comma, colon and semi-colon.


The comma is used as a separator for lists or to separate clauses. An example: I plan to cook turkey, potatoes, and vegetables for dinner. You can also use a comma to separate clauses: I consider myself knowledgeable about the subject matter, because I have taken several courses in that field of study.


Colons are used to introduce a list, except when the list directly follows a preposition:

Example: I would like the following items: milk, cheese, beans and fish. 

Not: I would like: milk, cheese, beans and fish.


Semi-colons are used to join two closely related ideas, both of which written in independent clauses.

Example: Some people prefer to write letters; others prefer to send text messages.


Other punctuation marks include quotation marks, apostrophes, hyphens and dashes, and parentheses and brackets.


If I were to quote something my friend said verbatim, I would put what I am quoting within quotation marks. For example, I could say that my friend told me: “His wife just passed away. The funeral is tomorrow.”


finApostrophes are used to either show possession (The lady's dog) or in a contraction (it's (it is), can't (cannot), aren't (are not), etc.).


Hyphens (-) are used when combining two adjectives (i.e. Italian-American), when women combine their maiden name with their husband's name (Sarah Smith-Jones), numbers 21-99 (twenty-one to ninety-nine), to be used as “to” as in: it's supposed to be 87-89 degrees outside.


Dashes (–) are used in written language to show an interruption. For example, my friend started to tell me “My sister's dog ran away, but –“ as her phone rang. Dashes can be used in lieu of parentheses. “Mr. Johnson is suited to the job—he has more experience than everybody else in the department—but he has been having some difficulties at home recently, and would probably not be available for a few weeks. In this case, the dash or the parentheses are used to add enclosed clarifying information. Another example is “I finally did come to a decision (after taking several days to really think about it), and I have chosen not to accept the offer.”


Brackets are interruptions. When we see them, we know they've been added by someone else. They are used to explain or comment on the quotation.

Example: "Four score and seven [today we'd say eighty-seven] years ago..."


I sincerely hope my explanations help clarify any questions you may have had or to at least refresh your memory on punctuation.

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