Back to basics - Punctuation

Some punctuation we used on a daily basis and we no longer have to think about its use. There is some punctuation, however, that we do not think to use so often but can be very useful.


Here is a reminder of the basics:

  • Full stop / Period

  • Marks the end of a sentence.

  • Used after some abbreviations: e.g. Mrs.

  • Used after numbers which appear in a list: 1. 2. 3.


  • Comma

  • Marks pauses within a sentence, helping the reader to dissect the segments.

  • Used to insert clauses, like this one, in the middle of a sentence.

  • Used when a sentence can have multiple meanings: e.g. A woman without her man is useless. Option 1: A woman: without her, man is useless. Option 2: A woman, without her man, is useless.


  • Question mark

  • Marks a direct question.


  • Exclamation mark

  • Marks surprise or shock.

  • Gives extra impact to a sentence.


  • Inverted commas / Quotation marks

  • Used when citing exact words that someone used.

  • Used to show that the speaker is mocking a term. When speaking people tend to use air quotes to do the same thing.


  • Hyphen

  • Connects two words to form a compound: e.g. second-hand.


Here are some that are less commonly used:

  • Semi-colon

  • Marks a pause that is longer than a comma and shorter than a full stop; it can look something like this.


  • Colon

  • Introduces an example of what is before the colon: like this.


  • Dash

  • Introduces an explanation or comments that are connected to what came before - like this - and interrupts the sentence. The sentence should be fluid if you take out the segment introduced by the dashes.


  • Brackets / Parentheses

  • Used to present additional information (like this) and also interrupts the sentence.


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