Teaching Students About Punctuation Marks

Punctuation, such as a complete stop, comma, and apostrophe, are the marks used in writing to separate sentences and elements of sentences and clarify meanings.

What is a Punctuation Mark?

In simple terms, punctuation marks are an emblem to create and support meaning within a sentence or to break it up. Examples of different punctuation marks include full stops (.), commas (,), question marks (?), exclamation marks (!), colons (:), semi-colons (;), apostrophes (‘), and speech marks (“,”).

Often children get told how and when to use various punctuation marks at school, yet this doesn’t explain what a punctuation mark is. Children must know the different types of punctuation marks with names and what they are used for.

Words are not the only thing that can help people to navigate a sentence; these marks show the structure of the sentence, including where the sentence starts and ends and when to pause (or breathe if reading the sentence aloud).

It is essential to make a sentence clear and accurate to be understood. These marks are how ideas are conveyed to the reader properly. You can use our fantastic and diverse range of resources and teaching aids to find all punctuation marks with names, uses, and examples that your children can use to master punctuation skills.

What are the different types of punctuation names? (With examples)

There are 12 different punctuation marks, and we need to learn the punctuation names in English. This means that there’s plenty to choose from when writing! We tend to use some punctuation marks more than others, but it’s still important to know them all, so we know what they mean when we read and see them.

See a description for each type of punctuation mark below, along with some handy punctuation examples in a sentence.

  1. Full stop

A full stop is the punctuation name for a mark that is used to show the end of a sentence, as shown in this punctuation example:

‘Lucy went clothes shopping. She bought a lovely new skirt.’

Full stops indicate the end of a sentence, usually communicating a whole point or thought. Instead, it highlights a new sentence that is about to begin.

  1. Commas

Commas are the punctuation name for a mark that is great for breaking down sentences, combining two clauses, or showing us when to pause.

‘Despite the fact I hate maths, I quite like learning about fractions.’

This shows how commas can add emphasis and tell the reader when to pause. However, sometimes, commas can be misplaced. This is called a comma splice, where two independent clauses are connected by a comma when they should be separated with a full stop or semi-colon or associated with a connective.

  1. Question marks

Question marks are the punctuation name for a mark that is a bit more straightforward. They indicate that the speaker is asking a question. They’re used at the end of the question (or interrogative) sentences.

‘Do you still want to keep your teddy bear?’

  1. Exclamation marks

Exclamation marks are the punctuation name for a mark that can change the meaning and tone of a sentence. They still end a sentence but can add emotion – excitement, anger, or nervousness!

‘Look, it’s a cat!’

‘I’m so nervous about my SATs exams!’

‘I can’t believe you just said that!’

All three of these sentences convey very different emotions using an exclamation mark, which can be confusing. Yet imagine if they used a full stop instead – these emotions would be much harder to read and understand.

A sentence that needs an exclamation mark is called an exclamatory sentence.

  1. Colons

Colons are the punctuation name for a mark ideal for connecting two clauses.

‘Never go out in the sun without sunscreen: you’ll damage your skin.’

They’re also great for introducing a list of three or more things.

‘I’m visiting four cities this summer: Rome, Florence, Paris, and Seville.’

  1. Semicolons

Semicolons get a terrible reputation for being difficult, but they’re super handy!

You can use a semicolon to join two main (or independent clauses) with equal importance. For example,

‘Katie was hungry; she hadn’t eaten all day.’

  1. Apostrophes

Apostrophes are the punctuation name for a mark that is quite confusing for many children, but children must learn how to use them properly.

Apostrophes are used to identify something that belongs to someone or to show a letter or multiple letters are missing from a word. Yet as simple as this sounds, many children and adults often misplace or forget apostrophes, even putting them somewhere they shouldn’t be altogether. For example, the following sentence shows how to use an apostrophe for contractions, where letters are missing from “were not,” “of the clock,” and “cannot.”

“We weren’t meant to leave before 4 O’clock, so we can’t go yet.”

Apostrophes can also be used to show the possessive form of a singular noun.

“The student’s job was to ensure no one touched the pet rabbit’s breakfast.”

With plural nouns where the word already has an ‘s’ at the end, an apostrophe gets added at the end.

“The girls’ toy truck had broken.”

Again, one can be added if the word is plural and doesn’t have an ‘s’ at the end.

“The women’s business meeting had been delayed.”

One of the most common misuses of apostrophes is putting them in words that are just plural and don’t show possession or contraction. So, for example, terms such as pencils, ghosts, houses, or guests never need an apostrophe.

  1. Dash

Adashisthe punctuation name for a mark that is used to separate words into statements. There are two common kinds of dashes: en dash and em dash, which vary in length. The en dash is twice as long as a hyphen and is most commonly used to signify a range between two words or numbers, for example, the date range:


Meanwhile, the em dash can be used in place of a comma, parenthesis, or colon to improve readability or emphasize the conclusion of a sentence. For example:

She gave him her answerNo!

  1. Hyphen

This list of punctuation marks isn’t exhaustive, but it does contain the most commonly used punctuation marks with names. For example:

Sarah had a part-time job that she worked on a Saturday

  1. Parentheses

A parenthesis is a word, phrase, or sentence that is inserted into writing as extra information using brackets, commas, or dashes. For example:

‘James (who was terrified of heights) was going to ride the biggest rollercoaster in the theme park

When a whole sentence is written inside a parenthesis, then the full stop will be included inside the parenthesis, for example – Please read this story. (You’ll be amazed.). However, if most of a sentence is written outside the parenthesis, then the full stop should also be used on the outside, for example, You are late (aren’t you?).

  1. Brackets

Brackets are the punctuation name for a mark with curved symbols that look like () and are used to separate non-essential or additional information from a sentence. For example:

She finally answered (after taking five minutes to think) that she didn’t understand the question.

  1. Quotation marks

Quotation marks are the punctuation name for a mark that is the primary type of punctuation used in quotes. These are inverted commas that are used as either single (‘ ’) or double (“ ”) sets. They are used either to mark the start and end of a title or a quoted passage. For example:

Walking across the beach, Mary said, “the weather is very sunny today.”

  1. Ellipsis

An ellipsis(plural ellipses) is a punctuation mark of 3 dots. Ellipses are commonly used to indicate the omission of words, lines, or paragraphs from a quoted passage. For example:

‘Today…we are proud to announce our new product.’

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