In simple terms, punctuation marks are signs or symbols that create and support a sentence’s meaning. They also help to break a sentence up. Examples of punctuation marks include full stops, commas, question marks, colons, semi-colons, apostrophes, and quotation marks.
Punctuation plays an important role in our writing by providing structure, clarity, and readability. You only need to read an unpunctuated text to see how important punctuation is. Without punctuation marks like commas and full stops to break a text apart, it can be very tricky to read or make sense of!
Fourteen punctuation marks are most commonly used in English grammar and punctuation, and pupils will learn how to use them through primary education. They are the full stop (also known as a period), question mark, exclamation point, comma, semicolon, colon, dash, hyphen, parentheses, brackets, braces, apostrophe, quotation marks, and ellipsis.
What is the use of punctuation?
Now that we know a little about punctuation let’s explore punctuation more closely. Earlier on, we mentioned the names of some of the most commonly used punctuation marks. Here, you can read a quick guide on the effect that these punctuation marks have:
- Full Stop – A full stop (.) is often referred to as a period and is used to mark the end of a sentence.
- Question Mark – A question mark (?) is used to mark the end of a direct question. For example, ‘How are you feeling today?’. If a sentence ends in a question, the question mark also functions as a full stop. However, if you are writing an indirect question, you do not need to use the question mark. For example, ‘Sarah asked me how I was feeling today.’
- Exclamation Mark – You can use an exclamation mark at the end of a sentence to show surprise or excitement. For example, ‘We won the game!’.
- Comma – There are many uses for the comma punctuation mark. These include marking a pause in a sentence, separating items in a list, or to be placed around relative clauses that add extra information to a sentence.
- Apostrophe – Apostrophes are used for two major purposes. The first is the possessive apostrophe, which shows ownership of something (for example, ‘It was Tom’s car’). However, it can be used to contract or shorten a word. For example, the words ‘do not’ can be written as ‘don’t’ using an apostrophe. It is called an omissive apostrophe.
- Quotation Marks – You can use quotation marks to show what someone has said directly. For example, ‘Sarah said, “It’s Tom’s birthday party tomorrow.”‘
- Colon – A colon looks like two full stops placed on top of each other to create ‘:.’ This punctuation mark can introduce a list or a long quotation.
- Semi Colon – Semi colons look like a full stop placed above a comma to create ‘;.’ This punctuation should be to connect two related sentences.
- Dash – Dashes are most commonly used in three different ways. A dash can be added before a phrase that summarizes the idea of a sentence, before and after a phrase, or a list that adds extra information in the middle of a sentence. Finally, a dash can also be used to show that someone has been interrupted when speaking.
- Hyphen – A hyphen looks like a shortened dash and joins two words that form one idea together.