All about Punctuation

Punctuation marks are symbols, used to regulate written text, clarify their meaning by separating or linking words, phrases or clauses.

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The great American inventor and typographer Benjamin Franklin wrote a peculiar epitaph.

Benjamin Franklin, the * of his profession, the type of honesty;  the ! of all; and although the (of death) has put a . to his existence, each) of his life has been without ?

Benjamin Franklin, the star of his profession, the type of honesty; the wonder of all and although parenthesis of death has put a stop to his existence, each curve of his life has been without question,


We use a capital letter –

  1. To begin a sentence. What a piece of work is man!
  2. For proper nouns. The Taj Mahal is a magnificient mausolem.
  3. After full stops. I know her. She is my neighbour.
  4. To begin a fresh line in a poetry. Errors like straws, upon the surface flow; He who search for pearls must dive below.

Compare the two sentences:

  1. Mary says, “Sally is a fool.
  2. Mary,” says Sally, “is a fool.”

From these two sentences it is clear that stops may alter the sense of a sentence. Punctuation means the correct use of such stops.

The principal stops are:

  1. Full stop/Period (U.S)                                                                            (.)
  2. Comma                                                                                                  (,)
  3. Semicolon                                                                                             (;)
  4. Colon                                                                                                     (:)
  5. Question mark/ Note of interrogation                                              (?)
  6. Exclamation mark/Note of exclamation                                           (!)
  7. Quotation mark/ Inverted commas           [ (“”)double]       [(‘’) single]
  8. Apostrophe                                                                                           (‘)
  9. Dash                                                                                                       (_)
  10. Hyphen                                                                                                 (-)
  11. Round bracket/ Curve/ Parenthesis                                                  (())
  12. Brace bracket/ curly bracket                                                             ({})
  13. Square bracket                                                                                      ([])
  14. Angular bracket                                                                                    (<>)
  15. Slash/ Oblique/ Slant/ Virgule                                                            (/)
  16. Back slash                                                                                              (\)
  17. Dots/ suspension Points                                                                      (…)
  18. Ditto marks                                                                                           (,,) (“)
  19. Asterisk/ star                                                                                         (*)
  20. Colon dash                                                                                            ( :- )
  21. Swang dash/ tilde                                                                                 (~)



  1. At  the end of an assertive or an imperative sentence. It represents the longest pause.

Close the door.

It’s a cold day.

  • Usually after common contractions.

Advertisement- advt.   Received- Revd.  Manufacturing- mfg. Expiry date- Exp. Dt.

  • After common abbreviations.

a.m,  p.m,  B.A, M.Tech, M.L.A., e.g., i.e.

[Now-a-days compound names of organisations, designations, degrees are used without fullstop.]


  • To indicate decimal point.

$ 10.50, 20.8 secs, 70.5m

A full stop is NOT used

1. After heading and titles of books  and articles


Arabian Nights

From Log cabin to White House

  • After a signature in a letter

Yours sincerely


  • After dates except at the end of sentence

25th May, 2020

COMMAS [ , ]

Commas represent the shortest pause in a sentence.

Commas are generally used for:

  • Separating phrases or clauses

When I opened my newspaper today, I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Bring a chair, a bottle of water, and a good book.

Being tired of walking, he decided to rest.

  • For separating sequence of words and phrases and is omitted before the conjunction (and).

e.g. I have brought sandwich, cake, fruit and some lemonade.

The night was dark, quiet and scary.

She is  tall, beautiful, honest and intelligent.

  • for separating phrases in apposition

Rabindranath, the great poet, won the noble prize for ‘Gitanjali’.

  • Separating adverbial clause from the principal clause

If it rains, I shall take an umbrella.

When she came here, it was dark.

  • for separating Non- defining Relative clause.

People , who live in glass houses, must not throw stones.

  • For separating co-ordinate clauses joined by co-ordinating conjunctions.

He will definitely come first, for he has studied hard.

  • After nouns of address

Jane, must you always be complaining?

Your Majesty, I’m at your service.

Excuse me, madam, is this your book?

Sir, may I come in?

I’m all right, mom.

  • For separating some words/ phrases at the beginning of a sentence.

 e.g. No, I won’t go to the market now.

 Yes, she has finished reading the book.

By the way, you must visit your grandmother.

I am quite comfortable, thank you.

Therefore, you must meet the boss.

  • i] In between dates and years- March 6, 2020

ii] After thousands in numerals – $ 10,985

iii] In address – 24, Clive House, London

  • For separating Question tags from sentences

 You will visit us, won’t you?

Your brother is a football player, isn’t he?

You have not given her the letter, have you?

She is not going to the stadium, is she?

  • Two commas are used to separate words, phrases, small clauses that interrupt normal sentence structure

E.g. Teacher: You are late again. The rules, as you know, do not allow late comers.

        Sammy: I’ll never, I assure you, be late again, ma’am.

       Teacher: By the way, may I know, why are you late?

       Sammy: Our car, which is old, refused to start in the cold morning.


Semi colons indicate greater pauses than a comma

It is used to

  • Separate clause having relation but not joined by conjunction

e.g. We will stay here; you may go.

Man loves today what he will hate tomorrow; today he seeks something only to shun it tomorrow; he will desire today what he will fear tomorrow.

Ashley is a hardworking boy; a boy who is sincere and devoted; a student who deserves the prize.

  • To mark a stronger division in a sentence when comma is already used.

e.g The children were waiting, impatiently talking among themselves; but none of them, inspite of being tired, complained to their teacher.


Colon represents a longer pause than a semi colon

It is used-

  • To introduce a quoted material

Vivekananda said: Education is the manifestation of perfection already in man.

  • To introduce list of items, comment or explanation.

You will need the following: some flour, four eggs, sugar and vanilla essence.

The dogs began growling : they must have heard a noise.

Learn to acquire the habit of self reliance: no learning is ever complete without it.

  •  To introduce an antithesis

She is famous: but she is unhappy.


It is used

  1. At the end of a direct question

Where are you going?

  • Not at the end of an indirect question.

He asked me where I was going.


  1. At the end of an exclamatory sentence.

What a kind lady she is!

What a beautiful scenery!

  • After interjections

Alas! My dog is dead!

Oh! I forgot to bring the tickets.


It is used

  1. With ‘s’ in possessive cases of Noun

e.g. My brother’s bicycle.

Derick’s shoes.

  • In contracted forms showing omission of letters

You’ve read the book.

I’ve observed that he can’t speak French.

  • In plural form of numbers and letters

Cut you t’s and dot your i’s . During the 1980’s


It is used

  • To form a compound  from two or more words

Brother-in-law,    Mid-day,     Eco-friendly,      Co-education

  • Between spellings of compound numbers (21 – 99)

Twenty-five,    sixty-seven

  • To separate prefix ending with the same vowel

Co-operate,       pre-eminent

  • To indicate the continuity of a word that is divided into two lines. The word is divided by syllables. The hyphen is written at the end of the first line, not at the beginning of the next line.

My sister is always try-

ing to find faults with me.

She scolded me just be-

cause I was late in feed-

 ing my canary.

QUOTATION MARKS OR INVERTED COMMAS [‘        ‘] [“        “]

Inverted commas are used to to mark the exact words of a speaker or a quotation.

In British English single inverted commas [‘      ‘]  and in American English double inverted commas [“     “] are used.

They are used

  • Indicate direct speech

She said, “I am guilty.”

Shakespeare says, “ Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.”

I would rather die,” he exclaimed, “than be taken as a prisoner.

  • To indicate titles of books, films, poems, etc.

Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’

J.K. Rowling’s ‘The Philosopher’s Stone’

  • To indicate foreign expression

Hitler told about ‘Lebensrium’ (German for ‘living place’)  

  • If a quotation occurs within a quotation, it is marked by single inverted commas.

You might as well say,” added the March Hare,“that ‘I like what I get is the same as I get what I like‘.”

DASH [ – ]

A dash is used

  • To indicate an additional statement or fact

The hill tribes are more friendly – and helpful- than people in the plain.

  • To indicate pause, especially for effect at the end of a sentence

There is only one outcome – downfall.

  • To add an afterthought

She wore a red gown – a very bright red.

  • To indicate range of year or route

2004 – 2010

Delhi – Kolkata highway

  • In place of quotation mark

-Where is your sister?

               -She is in the playground.

BRACKETS (  ) [  ] { } < >

Parenthesis or Round Brackets (  )

Are used to give extra information + cross reference

e.g. Her next film (The Dance of the Dragon) will be releasing soon.

Square brackets   [  ]

Are used for Editor’s comment and extra information

e.g. She left the office [to] see her father.

Curly brackets { }

Are used in prose to designate a list of equal choices

Angle brackets < >

Are used to enclose and illustrate highlighted information


A slash or virgule is used to indicate

  • Fractions

e.g. 2/3 of the cake was eaten by him.

  • Certain abbreviations

Care of = c/o, daughter of = d/o,  wife of = w/o

  • Alternatives

E.g. His/ her admission

  • Lines of poetry set in prose

E.g. I wandered lonely as a cloud/ That floats on high o’er the vales and hills/ When all at once I saw a crowd,/ A host of golden daffodils,

DITTO [ “ ]

Ditto means ‘do’ and it is used to indicate repetition of words

E.g.  All candidates must submit

i)  One copy of Residential certificate

ii)   “       “    “   Birth certificate


A tilde is used informally to mean approximately

e.g. Saute vegetables for ~30 minutes

In mathematical equation it is used for ‘ similar to’

e.g “x~y” x is similar to y in value

A tilde is also used to indicate a range between two numbers

e.g.   “ 72~78”

In Spanish, the tilde is  to represent a nasal sound ‘nyuh’


It is one of the oldest textual marks dating back over 5000 years. It is derived from the Greek word ‘asteriskos‘ which means ‘little star’.

It is used

To denote a footnote which directs the reader to the information located at the bottom of the page. Single *, double **, or triple *** asterisk is used for additional footnotes.

The *immobile elements posed threat to the inhabitants.

*not moving or not being able to move

  • To omit certain letters.

She scared the s*** out of me.

  • To clarify a ‘disclaimer’.

Avail 50% OFF on selected merchandise *

*terms and conditions apply.


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