Punctuation Marks

01 June 2014 by Diane

Comma ,

Commas are used to separate items on a list.  

I went to the shop and bought some apples, oranges, and bananas.


Commas are also used to separate clauses and are often found before conjunctions.

My mom liked the movie, but it didn’t get good reviews.


Commas are used to separate a non-defining relative clause from the rest of the sentence.

The students who passed the test had a party.

Some students passed the test, and some students failed the test.  Only the students who passed the test had a party.

The students, who passed the test , had a party.

All the students passed the test.  All the students had a party.

If you use a conjunction followed by a new subject, you need to use a comma.


Period  .

The period marks the end of the sentence that contains a statement.

My name is Diane.


Question Mark ?  

The question mark marks the end of the sentence that contains a question.

How are you?


Exclamation Mark !

The exclamation mark marks the end of a sentence that contains an expression of strong feeling.

We won the game!


Colon :

The colon indicates that what follows is an explanation or elaboration.

There was only one possible explanation: he had missed the bus. 

Colons can be used to introduce lists.

The US government has three branches: the legislative, the executive and the judicial.

Semi-colon ;

The semi-colon is often used to separate two clauses when a coordinating conjunction is not used.  Sometimes it is used in place of a period.  We use this when we have two complete sentences that are very closely related.

It was cold, so she wore a jacket. → It was cold; she wore a jacket.

It was raining.  However, she went to the beach. → It was raining; however, she went to the beach.



The apostrophe is used to show a contraction or possession.

These are the students’ books.  My dad’s favorite food is pizza.  

Be careful-- we don’t use an apostrophe to show possession with “it.”  

ex. The dog ate its bone.



The dash is most commonly used in formal writing, similar to colons, semicolons and brackets.

My father-- a man who has worked hard for the past 20 years-- was recently laid off.

Hyphen -

Hyphens are used to form compound words.

I am involved in the day-to-day running of the office.


Quotation Marks ”

Quotation marks are put around quoted, spoken or written language.

“I’d like to go to a nice restaurant,” she said.

“Where’s the house?” he asked.


( Brackets or Parentheses )

Brackets are put around material that we want to include as extra information.

The boy I met on the bus (I can’t remember his name) was really nice.

Forward Slash /

A forward slash is used to show alternatives.

Answer yes/no to the following questions.



Ellipsis can be used to indicate an incomplete thought in writing.

I love sweets: chocolate, cake, cookies, brownies...


Ellipsis is also used to show the place in a passage where words have been omitted.  If an extract is taken from a longer piece of writing, ellipsis can be used to indicate the missing sections of writing.

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