The most essential skill in English writing is the ability to use suitable punctuations and correct spellings a sentence. Students need the right rules and appropriate guidelines that help understand grammar better.  Careful use of Punctuations is more than simply applying learned rules. Punctuations are used to create clarity and stress in the sentences. You use punctuation marks to organize your writing. The main purpose of Punctuations in sentences is to shape words so that it helps the reader understand what is clearly said or written. Let’s take a small example:
The words drop dead gorgeous can be punctuated in two different ways:
1. Drop-dead gorgeous 
2. Drop dead, gorgeous!

Punctuation Marks

What is a Punctuation?

Punctuation is the use of symbols that we generally use to separate written sentences and parts of sentences, and to make their meaning more clear and flawless. Each symbol is called a "punctuation mark". Punctuation helps to create the logic of the written word. Without the use of punctuation, writing would become open to multiple interpretations. When writing, we must use punctuation in order to specify places of emphasis. Let’s  take a look at the punctuation marks below:

 Punctuation Mark 



 .  Full Stop or Period   I like Flowers. 
 ‚  Comma  I like roses, jasmine and sunflower. 
 ;  Semi-Colon  I don't often go jogging; I prefer to play tennis. 
 :   Colon You have two choices: finish the work today or lose your job. 
 –  Hypen This is a rather out-of-date magazine. 
 —  Dash In each town—Paris, UK and Rome—we stayed in youth accomodations. 
 ?  Question Mark Where is the Bahama islands located?
 !  Exclamation Mark "Help!" she cried. "I can't walk!" 
 /  Slash, Forward slash, Oblique  Please press your browser's Refresh/Reload button. 
 \  Back Slash C:\Files\mo.doc 
“       ”  Double Quotation Marks "I love you too," she said. 
 ‘       ’  Single Quotation Marks 'I love you too,' she said. 
 ’  Apostrophe This is Ezra's car. 
 _  Underline Have you read PS I Love You? 
 _  Underscore turn_around@dance.com 
 (         )  Round Brackets I went to Singapore (my favourite city) and stayed there for three weeks. 
 [         ]   Square Brackets The newspaper reported that the hostages [most of them Irish] had been released. 
 ...  Ellipsis Mark One happy customer wrote: "This is the best lunch...that I have ever had." 

Full Stop / Period

The period is possibly the simplest and easiest punctuation mark to master. You use it like a knife to cut the sentences to the desired length. Normally, while writing one can break up the sentences using the full stop at the end of a logical and complete thought that looks and sounds right.


1. Use a full stop at the end of a sentence:
  • The man reached. He sat down.
  • This flower smells sweet like honey.
2. Use full stops with abbreviations:
  • Co. (Company)
  • etc. (et cetera)
  • M.P. (Member of Parliament)
3. Do not use full stops with contractions:
  • Ltd (Limited)
  • Dr (Doctor)
  • St (Saint)
4. Period after a single word
  • "Goodbye."
  • "Stop."
5. Periods in numbers
  • $10.53 = ten dollars and 53 cents
  • 14.57 = fourteen point five seven

The Comma

The Comma indicates a pause that would occur if the sentence were spoken aloud at other times; the comma separates grammatical components of the sentence. We use commas inside sentences.Commas separate parts of a sentence into logical elements. Even though we are often taught that commas are used to help us add 'breathing spaces' to sentences they are, in fact, more precisely used to organize chunks of thought or reasonable groupings.

  • Use a comma between items in a series or list.
Example: football, rugby, swimming, cricket, baseball, boxing and golf.
  • Use a comma between three or more adjectives or adverbs.
Example: He bought a new, red, open-top Volkswagen.
  • For two adjectives, use a comma where you could use "and".
Example: It was a long, exciting film. (It was a long and exciting film.)
  • Use a comma for numbers over 999.
Example:  $73,050.75; 2,000,000; 1,500
  • Use a comma for addresses, some dates, and titles following a name.
Example:  757 Boulevard Mansions, Sothern Road, Bangkok 10100, Thailand
  • Use a comma before or after direct speech.
  1. He said, "I love you."
  2. "I love you," he said.
  • Use a comma before a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) to join two independent clauses.
  1. She didn't want to go, but she went anyway.
  2. I want to work as a journalist, so I am studying Russian at university.
  • Use commas for parenthetical elements.
  1. John Lenon, who is chairman of the company, is quite young.
  2. Andrew, my wife's brother, cannot come.
  • Use a comma after an introductory element.
  1. Rushing to catch the flight, he forgot to take his passport and phone.
  2. As the year came to an end, she realized the days were getting shorter.
  • Sentence adverbs (words like however, unfortunately, surprisingly that modify a whole sentence)
  1. However, Anthony did arrive.
  2. He had, not surprisingly, lost his temper.
  • An adverbial clause often needs a comma when it comes at the beginning of a sentence but not at the end of a sentence.
  1. If I win the lottery, I will buy a castle.
  2. I will buy a castle if I win the lottery.
  • Do not use a comma to separate two complete sentences. In this case, use a full stop (period) or semi-colon.
  1. Ronnie wants to go out. Anto wants to stay home.
  2. Ronnie wants to go out, Anto wants to stay home.

The Semicolon

Semicolons can be used to join phrases and sentences or to separate sentences that are grammatically independent but that have closely connected meaning without having to use a conjunction. Semicolons can also be used instead of commas to separate the items in a list when the items themselves already contain commas. The semicolon is sometimes described as stronger than a comma but weaker than a period.

  • I like your brother; he's a good friend.
  • Amrita is a good speaker; she speaks very clearly.
  • The conference has people who have come from Moscow, Idaho; Springfield, California; Alamo, Tennessee; Bangalore, India; and other places as well.
  • We had students from Lima, Peru; Santiago, Chile; Athens, Greece; and Caracas, Venezuela.

The Colon

The job of the colon is simple: to introduce. The colon expands on the sentence that precedes it, often introducing a list that demonstrates or elaborates whatever was previously stated. The colon is also used to divide the hour from the minutes in writing a time in English.

  • Use a colon to introduce a list:
  1. All three of their children are involved in the arts: Richard is a sculptor, Diane is a pianist, and Julie is a theatre director.
  2. He collected a strange assortment of items: bird's eggs, stamps, stickers, bottle tops, bows, string, and buttons.
  • Use a colon to introduce a single item, especially when you want to emphasize that item:
  1. Five continents, three dozen countries, over a hundred cities: this was the trip of a lifetime.
  2. We were all waiting for the hero of the evening: Adrian.
  • Use a colon to introduce direct speech or a quotation:
  1. He stood up and said loudly: "Ladies and Gentlemen, please be seated."
  • Use a colon to introduce an explanation:
  1. He had just one fault: an enormous ego.
  2. We had to cancel the party: too many people were tire.
  • Use a colon to separate hours from minutes.
  1. 4:15 = "four fifteen"
  2. 6:45 = "six fourty-five"
  • Biblical references
  1. Genesis 1:31
  2. Psalm 23:5
  • Correspondence
  1. Dear Ms. Sean:
  2. Attention: Accounts Receivable
  3. PS: Don’t forget your documents.


A hyphen joins two or more words together and is not separated by spaces it is a very short horizontal line between words.

  • Use a hyphen to join words to show that their meaning is linked in some way:
  1. race-horse (or racehorse)
  2. book-case (or bookcase)
  3. pick-me-up
  4. great-grandmother
  5. son-in-law
  • Use a hyphen to make multiple modifiers before nouns:
  1. a blue-eyed boy (but The boy was blue eyed.)
  2. the well-known director (but The director is well known.)
  3. their seven-year-old son (but Their son is seven years old.)
  • Use a hyphen with certain prefixes. The prefixes all-, ex-, and self- usually need a hyphen:
  1. all-inclusive
  2. ex-boyfriend
  3. self-control

  • When a prefix comes before a capitalized word, use a hyphen:
  1. non-English
  • When a prefix is capitalized, use a hyphen:
  1. A-frame
  • Use a hyphen when writing numbers 21 to 99, and fractions:
  1. twenty-three
  2. one hundred and sixty-four
  3. nine-hundredths
  • Use a hyphen to show that a word has been broken at the end of a line (hyphenation):
The directors asked for a more conven-
ient location.


The dash (–) is slightly wider than the hyphen (-) but narrower than the dash (—).  Dash separates words into parenthetical statements it has a space on either side. Dashes can be used to create emphasis in a sentence. Use a dash to show a pause or break in meaning in the middle of a sentence or an afterthought. Dash can be used like a colon to introduce a list or to show that letters or words are missing.

  • You may think she is a liar - she isn't.
  • My brothers—Richard and John—are visiting Spain.
  • She might come to the party - you never know.
  • I attached the photo to my email—at least I hope I did!
  • Don't forget to buy some food—eggs, bread, salmon and cheese.
  • I will look ––––– the children. 

The Question Mark

The question mark is used at the end of a direct question. The main function of a question mark is to indicate a question or query.

  • Use a question mark at the end of all direct questions:
  1. Did you send euro or dollars?
  2. How else would I get there, after all?
  3. What if I said to you, "I don't need you any more"?
  4. "Who knows when I'll die?", he asked rhetorically.
  • Use a question mark after a tag question:
  1. You're French, aren't you?
  2. Grass isn't green, is it?
  • In very informal writing (personal letter or email)
  1. See you at 9pm?

The Exclamation Mark

The exclamation mark is used to express strong feeling, such as surprise, anger or joy, exasperation, astonishment, or to emphasize a comment or short, sharp phrase. An exclamation mark is usually used in writing quoted speech.

  • Use an exclamation mark to indicate strong feelings or a raised voice in speech:
  1. He exclaimed: "What a fantastic car you have!"
  2. "Good heavens!" he said, "Is that true?"
  3. "Help!"
  4. "Shut up!"
  • Many interjections need an exclamation mark:
  1. "Hi! What's new?"
  2. “Get out!” Marcus yelled.
  3. "Ouch! That hurt."
  4. "Oh! When are you going?"
  • A non-question sentence beginning with "what" or "how" is often an exclamation and requires an exclamation mark:
  1. What idiots we are! 
  2. What in the world are you doing up there!
  • In very informal writing (personal letter or email)
  1. That's insane!!!
  2. I met John yesterday. He is so handsome!!!
  3. He's getting married!?

Forward Slash and Backslash

A slash is often used to indicate "or" it is also known as: forward slash, stroke, oblique.  The backslash is a typographical mark used mainly in computing. It is called a "backslash" because it is the reverse of the slash (/) or forward slash.

Example of Forward Slash:
  • An $800/week salary.
  • Dear Sir/Madam
  • The speed limit is 300 km/h.
  • Annabelle is enrolling in the JD/MBA program at Harvard.
  • The speech will be given by President/Senator Clinton.
  • John Brown, c/o Jane Green 
  • The Paris/London train leaves in an hour.
  • P/E ratio (price-to-earnings ratio)
  • n/a (not applicable, not available) or w/o (without)
  • 9/10 (nine tenths)
  • On credit card: Expires end 10/15
  • He was born on 30/11/2007.
  • www.example.com/writing/slash.htm
Example of Back Slash:
  • C:\Users\Win\Files\jse.doc

Quotation Marks (double, single) 

We use quotation marks to show (or mark) the beginning and end of a word or phrase that is somehow special or comes from outside the text that is written. Use quotation marks to cite something someone said exactly.

  • Harry told me, "Don't forget your soccer jersey."
  • I've always thought that he was very annoying, a bit of a 'pain in the neck.'
  • The flight attendant asked, “May I see your boarding pass?”
  • 'Titanic' is a 1997 movie directed by James Cameron about the sinking of the ship 'Titanic'.
  • Then Mary turned to him and said: "Do you love me, James?"

The Apostrophe

The apostrophe ( ’ ) has three uses: 
  1. Contractions - cannot → can't, they have → they've, I would (or I had) → I'd
  2. Plurals - four A’s and two B’s, yes’s than no’s
  3. Possessives - New York's nightmare scenario, the moon's phases

isn't    wouldn't    he's    Germany's     You'll   I'd    They'd     You're
   hasn't     can't  it's  who's  She'll    You'd   I've  They're
 hadn't  she's    Martin's   I'm  We'll  He'd  You've  We're
 didn't there's   Jonna's  I'll  They'll  We'd  We've    They've 

Other Examples:
  • Who's at the door? 
  • They're not here yet.
  • someone with twelve years’ experience
  • a ship's captain
  • a doctor's patient
  • the bus' wheel
  • the babies' crying
  • Mr Jones's shop
  • the Smiths’ vacation house
  • excessive lawyers’ fees

Brackets and Parentheses

Parentheses refers to round brackets () and brackets to square brackets [].Round brackets are basically used to add extra information to a sentence. We typically use square brackets when we want to modify another person's words.

  • The president (and his assistant) traveled by private jet.
  • The conference call will be held at 9:00 a.m. (EST)
  • If you have any questions, please call me at (212) 555-7875.
  • His knowledge of Portuguese is limited to obrigado (thank you) and adeus (goodbye).
  • The two teams in the finals of the first FIFA Football World Cup were both from South America [Spain and Argentina].
  • It is [a] good question.

  1. Remember that the full stop, exclamation mark or question mark goes after the final bracket (unless the brackets contain a complete sentence). 
  2. Square brackets can also be nested (using square brackets [like these] inside round brackets)

Ellipsis Mark

The ellipsis mark is also called a "suspension point" or "dot dot dot". The ellipsis mark consists of three dots (periods) it is used in place of missing words. If we deliberately omit one or more words from an original text, we replace them with an ellipsis mark.

  • The film focused on three English learners...studying at college.
  • "It's not easy to explain. It's not..." Her voice trailed away as emotion welled up within her.
  • If only she had . . . Oh, it doesn’t matter now.
  • I wasn’t really . . . well, what I mean . . . see, the thing is . . . I didn’t mean it.