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Punctuation Is Your Friend

Updated on March 3, 2009

Punctuation. What is it?

Punctuation marks are special signs (e.g: full stops, commas, exclamation points) which help you understand what you're reading.

When you read out loud they also show you where to pause and when to raise or lower the tone of your voice. It helps other people understand what you are saying.

Listed here are some of the most important punctuation marks. You should be able to recognise these and know how to use them correctly in your writing.

Full stop

A full stop is used to mark the end of a sentence.

A full stop is sometimes used to mark a short form of a word such as an initial.

Also known as a 'period'.


A comma is used to mark a pause between different items in a list.

Use as a pause or an interval.

A comma is often used to separate two phrases within the same sentence.

A comma is used to mark the beginning and the end of a phrase which interrupts the flow of a sentence.

Question mark

A question mark is used at the conclusion of a sentence that asks a direct question.

It is not used at the end of an indirect or reported question.

Exclamation point

An exclamation point at the end of a word, phrase or sentence to indicate forceful utterance or strong feeling, such as surprise or rage. It can also follow an order given to someone. Also called an exclamation mark


Brackets are used to separate a comment or phrase from the rest of the sentence.

The bracketed word, phrase, or sentence may amplify the meaning or be explanatory. Or it may contain a remark or passage that departs from the theme.


A hyphen is used between the parts of a compound word or name (to join two words that are normally separated) or between the syllables of a word (especially when divided at the end of a line of text).


A semicolon marks a longer pause than a comma to indicate a major division in a sentence. Used to create a more distinct separation between clauses or items on a list than is indicated by a comma. It separates statements which could stand as sentences on their own and are usually of similar importance, but are not linked with a conjunction.


A dash is used in place of a semicolon to mark a pause in a more dramatic way - to create an abrupt break or pause in a sentence or hesitation in an utterance.

Two dashes can used instead of brackets to separate a piece of information from the rest of the sentence.

A dash is written very much like a hyphen. The difference being the dash is longer, and has a gap on both sides of it.

Quotation Marks

Quotation marks, also called Inverted Commas, are placed on either side of words and the punctuation that goes with them, to show that someone has spoken or of a text directly cited.

Quotation marks can be put around a word or phrase to make it stand out from the rest of the sentence.

Quotation marks can be written in one of two ways "either" - 'or'. "Sometimes this way is used to show speech" and the other one is use to 'draw attention' to a word or phrase.


An apostrophe used to indicate the omission of one or more letters. It can be also be used the same way with numbers. For instance to denote a calendar year: instead of 1998 it could be written as '98.

An apostrophe is used before or after an 's' at the end of word to show who owns something. When you use its to mean the owner of something you do not write an apostrophe.

An apostrophe also shows the plural of a number or letter of the alphabet, or a word which does not normally have a plural.


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    • Jagodka profile image

      Jagodka 6 years ago

      I'm always cautious when I use semicolons. I think it's because most people use them not because it fits, but because it makes them seem smarter.

    • Petra Vlah profile image

      Petra Vlah 8 years ago from Los Angeles

      Thank you Darkside

      Punctuation (good or bad) can make or break a writer as it does change the meaning of a sentence.

      I once wrote a poem called “Punctuation” inviting the readers to distribute the punctuation as they please so they can discover whatever meaning is close to their heart and go as far or as deep as their own imagination allows.

    • profile image

      issues veritas 8 years ago

      nicely done, infromative, useful and terse.;'"?!

    • joeleighton profile image

      joeleighton 9 years ago

      yeah, the brits have tried for years to mess up our language.

      "inverted commas" can be very helpful in making slightly awkward keywords fitin when using them in page titles.

    • darkside profile image

      Glen 9 years ago from Australia

      Same here in Australia.

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image

      Ashok Rajagopalan 9 years ago from Chennai

      We call them 'inverted commas' all the time in India, William. Must be a Brit influence.

    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      I use the semicolon often, but on hubpages it appears to be very light so I often wonder if anyone can see it (or it's mistaken for a comma.) I've never heard quotation marks called inverted commas (you learn something new every day!) The only time I ever use a single quote 'like this' is when the quote is contained with another quote (example: "The president said 'I love war' when he met with the cabinet," according to the candidate.

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 10 years ago from Ontario/Canada


      I tend to use too many comas and .... I always have to run through my work after and change them....

      Great HUB

      regards Zsuzsy

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 10 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Very nice Hub...and comments as well. :)

    • darkside profile image

      Glen 10 years ago from Australia

      The semicolon is quite powerful. I must say this hub is a result of me researching the topic so I myself can get better at it.

      Love the joke too!

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image

      Ashok Rajagopalan 10 years ago from Chennai

      You know, Darkside, I love the semicolon, but people manage with commas and use the little fellow only when they want a winky smiley.

      Did you hear about the job applicant who was asked whether her punctuation was good? She said that she was the first to arrive at any office she worked in.