Punctuation‏‎ in English

Language Skills, Linguistics, Sentence Structure

Punctuation is the use of different marks to show how a sentence‏‎ is constructed and should be read and understood. It is, if you like, the written equivalent of pauses and emphasis.

In English the following punctuation marks are used:

  • apostrophes
  • brackets or parentheses
  • colon
  • commas
  • dashes or hyphens
  • ellipsis‏‎
  • emoticons
  • exclamation mark
  • inverted commas or quotation marks
  • period or full stop
  • question mark
  • semicolon

Punctuation marks guide our reading, emphasizing where we should pause, stop, show excitement or wonder, and so on. Each punctuation mark indicates a different kind of pause or reaction, and some may have multiple meanings depending on the context.

The most common punctuation marks are shown below.


There are technical rules for comma usage, but generally they are used to separate the major elements in a sentence and give pause for breath.

I don’t know what you mean by that, but I am never going to marry you!

They are also used to separate out a list of adjectives‏‎:

the big, bad wolf

See the main article, Commas.

Period or Full Stop

The period (American English‏‎) or Full Stop (British English) is the most common way to end a statement. When you encounter one you can stop and take a breath, sip some tea or look up and smile. Then you continue.

Ellen and Jane are sisters.

They came all the way from Egypt to attend his wedding in Glasgow.

Note that we can also end a sentence with a Question Mark or Exclamation Mark.

See the main article, Period / Full Stop.

Capital Letters

Capital letters are not really an aspect of punctuation but rather of Spelling. However as they are often connected to the use of a period, which is a punctuation aspect, there is a tendency to address them under punctuation.

They are used to start off a new sentence.

For more on this see Capital Letters‏‎.


The apostrophe is used in two main ways:

  1. In contracted forms to show that some letters have been left out.
  2. With the possessive case to show possession.

For more on this see Apostrophe‏‎s.

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