Punctuation Marks in English | List, Names & Examples

Learn how to use Punctuation Marks correctly in English with examples.

The following lesson looks at the most common punctuation marks used in English.

Punctuation Marks List

The Full Stop (.)

  • The full stops, also called the periods are one of the most commonly used punctuation marks; analysis of texts indicate that approximately half of all punctuation marks used are full stops.
  • Use a full stop at the end of a declarative sentence and in abbreviations.

Examples:

My name’s Beth and I was 18 in July.

Mr. White was talking with Mr. Smith.

The Question Mark (?)

  • Use a question mark after an interrogative sentence.

Examples:

“Have you a pen I can borrow?” she asked.

Where are you from?

Quotation Marks/Speech Marks (” “)

  • Use quotation marks for direct quotations.

Examples:

“Good morning, Frank,” said Hal.

“I work in Italy”, said Jimmy.

The Apostrophe (‘)

  • Use an apostrophe in contractions

He is = He’s

I am = I’m

Do not = Don’t

They have = They’ve

It is = It’s

I would = I’d

Let us = Let’s

She has = She’s

Who is = Who’s

  •  Use an apostrophe to indicate possession

Examples:

He joined Charles’s army in 1642.

Sally’s hair was blond and curly.

We have put together an anthology of children’s poetry.

The boy’s sister traveled by bus to meet us.

 The Comma (,)

  • Add a comma when two separate sentences are combined

Example:

We purchased some cheese, and we purchased some fruit.

  • Use commas between words in a series. Notice that a comma does not follow the last word in the series

Example:

I like reading books, listening to music, watching TV, and studying English.

  • Use a comma to separate an introductory element from the rest of the sentence

Example:

As the day came to an end, the fire fighters put out the last spark.

  • Use the comma to set off the words “yes” and “no”.

Example:

No, thank you.

  • Use a comma to set off a tag question from the rest of the sentence.

Example:

She is your sister, isn’t she?

  • Use a comma to indicate direct address.

Example:

Is that you, Mary?

  • Use a comma after an expression.

Example:

Most certainly, you can borrow my pencil.

  • Add a comma when a participle phrase clause is used.

Example:

Walking slowly, I could see the beautiful flowers.

  • Use a comma to separate parts of the date.

Example:

Tuesday, May 2, 2016, was when I graduated.

The Hyphen (-)

  • Use a hyphen to join two or more words together into a compound term. Do not separate the words with spaces.

Examples:

My eight-year-old boy loves reading.

I work part-time.

Self-expression

Self-confidence

Self-consciousness

Nineteenth-century history

Old-furniture salesman

Off-the-peg suits

Self-paced learning exercises

The Dash

The dash is used to separate words into statements.

En dash (–)

Slightly wider than a hyphen, the en dash is a symbol (–) that is used in writing or printing to indicate a range or connections.

Examples:

1880 –1945

Princeton–New York trains

Em dash (—)

Twice as long as the en dash, the em dash can be used in place of a comma, parenthesis, or colon to enhance readability or emphasize the conclusion of a sentence.

Example:

She gave him her answer—No!

 The Exclamation Mark (!)

  • Use an exclamation mark to show strong emotion or give a command.

Examples:

Stop!

Yeah!

Sit down!

What a lovely view you have here!

That’s fantastic!

Johnny, don’t touch that!

Help!

Good heavens!

Aaarrgh!

The Colon (:)

  • Use a colon to introduce a list and before a final clause that explains something in the sentence.

Examples:

You have two choices: finish the work today or lose the contract.

That’s because we have one goal: for you to consider your website a success.

John has all the ingredients: minced clams, milk, potatoes, and onions. 

The Semicolon (;)

  • Use a semicolon to join two independent clauses that are not connected with a coordinate conjunction.

Examples:

My daughter is a teacher; my son is a doctor.

The Council is comprised of ten members: three from Sydney, Australia; four from Auckland, New Zealand; two from Suva, Fiji; and one from Honiara, Solomon Islands.

Richard always slept with the light on; he was afraid of the dark.

The Parentheses/Brackets ()

  • Use parentheses to set off less important details

Example:

The two brothers (Richard and Sean) were learning how to play guitar.

The Ellipsis (…)

  • Use ellipsis to show that parts of sentences are left out.

Examples:

To be continued…

You’ll never believe what I saw…

The Slash (/)

  • Use slashes to separate parts of internet (web) addresses and file names for some computer programs.

Example:

http://www.example.com/

  • Use slashes for fractions

Example:

1/3 = one-third

  • Use a slash to separate the day, month, and year in date.

Examples:

w/o = without

n/a or N/A = not applicable or not available

R/C = radio control

  • Use a slash to show the word “per” in measurements.

Example:

80 miles/hour = 80 miles per hour

  • Use a slash to separate lines of poetry or rhymes in regular text.

Example:

Twinkle, twinkle, little star, / How I wonder what you are. / Up above the world so high, / Like a diamond in the sky.

  • Use a slash to show alternatives in a sentence.

Example:

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