While learning anything, never be afraid of committing mistakes. Commit as many mistakes as you like since every unsuccessful attempt teaches you a new lesson and eventually leads you to a great triumph.#AKWords How to Use Punctuation Marks to Write Quality Write-ups

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How to Use Punctuation Marks to Write Quality Write-ups


Curious to learn the proper use of punctuation? I guess "YES"; then, you have come to the right place.

The term "Punctuation" has its origin in the Latin language. This is punctum in Latin which means a "point". This is how punctuation means the correct use of putting in Points or stops in writing. Punctuation marks along with spelling, capitalisation and abbreviations are one of the aspects of writing mechanics. They guide us through the written words to get the message properly in a way the writer has intended to convey to the readers. These marks make the readers aware of transitions, pauses or stops; become helpful to follow the thoughts through sentences or paragraphs, and make communication effective. Frequently used punctuation marks and their use in writing are mentioned below.


1. The Full Stop (.)

This punctuation mark is named full stop (BrE) or period (AmE). It is one of the most often used punctuation marks. It is to mark the end of a declarative or an imperative sentence. It also represents the greatest pause and separation.

  • I am writing to my penfriend.
  • Your classmate is not cooperative.
  • Get that notebook to me.
  • Shhhh, don't cry.
The full stop can be used in abbreviations or short forms, but it is often dropped in them in modern style.

  • The U.S.A. or USA
  • U.N.O. or UNO
  • Ph.D. or PhD
  • Jr. or Jr
  • Mr. or Mr
  • Mrs. or Mrs
Note that full stop is usually omitted in Mr and Mrs because these abbreviations are regarded as full spellings.

This punctuation (.) is also used to separate a file name from a file extension.

  • image.jpeg
  • video.mp4
  • english.docx
  • balancesheet.xlsx

2. The Question Mark (?)

The question mark or the sign of interrogation is used to end the sentence which asks for information. This functions as a full stop in a sentence after a direct question. Normally the sentence with a question mark is read or spoken with a rising tone.

  • If you tickle us, do we not laugh?
  • If you poison us, do we not die?
  • Can you be here by five?
  • Have you posted my letter?
  • How is your daughter?
  • When are you coming to see us?
  • When did you get back from holiday?
Sometimes the sign of interrogation can be used to end the statements as well if the statements take the rising tune and thus, are intended as a question, or it can also be used with the statement to reconfirm something.

  • You like it?
  • He is a doctor?
  • She doesn't want to lend it to you?
  • So, you are coming today? (reconfirming)
Note that the question mark is never used after an indirect question; as

  • She asked me if I disclosed her secrete.
  • Mr Kenning asked her when she had arrived at the airport.
  • Anshika asked whether she could join them.

3. The Exclamation (!)

The exclamation mark is such a punctuation mark that shows one's (sudden) feeling or emotion.

To express excitement, fear, curse, blessing, prayer, sadness, joy, surprise, and so on

  • What a beautiful scene!
  • God bless you!
  • Good heavens!
  • How wonderfully it works!
  • May you get a victory!
  • You rock!
  • Long live the King!
With interjections

  • Alas! He died.
  • Pooh! It's too stinky.
  • Hurray!
  • Wow! Ummma...
  • Ouch! You stepped on my foot.
Note if the interjection "O" is placed before the nominative of address, the exclamation comes after the noun, or it may be at the end of the sentence.

  • O God! Save us.
  • O father, bless my child.

4. The Comma (,)

The comma indicates the shortest pause while reading. Its main uses are the following:

To separate a series of words belonging to the same parts of speech
  • I bought books, notebooks, pencils and erasers.
  • It was a long, dull and tiresome journey.
A comma is always used between adjectives in the predictive part when a sentence has a "be" verb or any "linking verb".
  • Her husband is intelligent, helpful and handsome.
  • He often appears careless, lazy, silly and rubbish.
To separate each pair of words connected by and

  • High and low, poor and rich, wise and foolish, must all die.
  • Arnav and Anshika, their father and mother, all went to New Delhi.
After a nominative absolute
  • The wind being calm, the tournament resumed.
  • The work having been finished, we took a long breath and sat in the shade.
  • This done, she returned to the old man with a lovely smile on her face.
To separate a noun or phrase in apposition
  • Gyanendra Shah, the last king of the Shah Dynasty in Nepal, was deposed.
  • Lord Ram, the eldest son of the King Dasarath of Ayodhya, was the supreme being.
Before and after the vocative case
  • Friends, come on.
  • I love you, my darling.
  • Hey, don't sit on that chair.
After an adverbial phrase or transition word
  • At last, he spoke a remarkable sentence.
  • He was a heavy smoker. Hence, he died of cancer.
To mark off subordinate clauses from the principal clauses
  • If you are ever in any problem, remember me.
  • After he had laughed his field, he fainted and fell down on the ground.
When clauses are connected with orand, or but, the comma is usually used to separate them if they are not very short.
  • Mr Karn decided to have a cold drink, and his colleague ordered a coffee.
  • She had little to live on, but she never lost hope.
Note these above-mentioned sentences will not take commas if they are made short:
  • Mr Karn had a cold drink and his colleague had coffee.
  • She was poor but she was hopeful.
If expressed at full length, short coordinated clauses in a compound sentence are generally separated by a comma.
  • I entered the room, I shut the door, and I slept.
  • He just came into the meeting, and he greeted all, but he vanished like a ghost in a while.
But commas are omitted if the coordinated clauses are not expressed at full length as
  • The hunter loaded a bullet in his gun and aimed at a dove.
  • She cooked chicken and served her hungry children.
When different parts of something are indicated by adjectives or any modifiers, a comma is used to separate them.
  • a black, white and green board
  • a ceramic, glass and plastic toy
To separate a reposting clause/expression from the direct speech
  • He said, "I'm not interested in her anymore."
Commas are used to divide large numbers into groups of three figures
  • 2,564,523 (but we do not always use commas in four-figure numbers: 5675)
To indicate the omission of a verb
  • He is a teacher; his sister, a doctor.
  • She will succeed; you, never.
To mark off a noun clause preceding the verb
  • Whatever you said, is not acceptable.
  • How motivate students to study, is a big challenge for parents.
  • Their problem, girls frankly express today.
To separate a non-defining clause from a principal clause
  • Her husband, who is living in New York, sends her money every month.
  • I visited Lumbini on summer vacation, which is the birthplace of Gautam Buddha.

5. The Semicolon (;)

This punctuation mark signals a pause of greater importance than that shown by the comma. It is used to replace commas to clear the confusion when individual items in a long series are separated by commas.

  • Michael loves to eat seasonal fruits like mango, pineapple, and guava; Chinese food such as momo and chowmein; and clod drinks like Coca-Cola, Sprite and Pepsi.
This abovementioned example may be very confusing to figure out where one item ends and another stats.

  • Michael loves to eat seasonal fruits like mango, pineapple, and guava, Chinese food such as momo and chowmein, and clod drinks like Coca-Cola, Sprite and Pepsi. (confusing sentence)
To separate independent clauses instead of using a full stop
  • Some people seem to be responsible; others are responsible and accountable as well.
  • The teacher entered the classroom; he entertained the students by cracking a joke.
They can be written in other ways: using full stops or using coordinating conjunctions.
  • Some people seem to be responsible but others are responsible and accountable as well. (use of conjunction)
  • Some people seem to be responsible, but others are responsible and accountable as well. (use of conjunction)
  • The teacher entered the classroom. He entertained the students by cracking a joke. (use of a full stop)
But if they are joined only commas, they would result in a comma splice. A comma splice means two independent clauses are joined by a comma only without using conjunction; this is a type of punctuation error.

The semicolon is used when two sentences are linked by a transition word.

  • Angelina is always very serious to complete her homework; however, she does not complete it on time.
  • The officer was found guilty of embezzlement; thus, he was suspended.
Use to separate items if they belong to different groups or categories.
  • My mother brought me T-shirts, pants and a towel; sweets and a cold drink; notebooks and a dictionary; and a bag and a wallet.

6. The Colon (:)

The colon signals a more complete pause than that shown by a semicolon. It resembles two dots placed vertically (:). Its uses are as follows:

To introduces an explanation or further details

  • Sorry to say that I cannot join you: I have loads of tasks to complete.
  • She will not marry: she is focused on her career.
To introduce a list

  • Punctuation marks used in writing are as follows: full stop, comma, inverted commas, dash, etc.
  • The following things come in stationary: books, pens, pencils, scales, erasers, etc.
  • There are four forms of a verb in English: present, past, past participle, and present participle.
  • I need three kinds of support from you: economic, social and political.

To introduce a subdivision of a subject in a title or heading

  • Carnivorous Animals: Tigers and Lions
  • A Major Problem in Teenagers: Discipline
Use a colon after the opening salutation in letters in American English

  • Dear Sir/Madam:
Note that in British English a colon mark is replaced either by a comma or no punctuation mark at all in this case.

To introduce a quote

  • Shakespeare says: "He that wants money, means and content, is without three good friends."
  • Bacon says: "Reading makes a full man, writing an exact man, speaking a ready man."
Although a colon is used to introduce a quote, a comma is usually preferred.

To quote somebody's statement by their name or in a dialogue

Archana: Do you love me?

Amit: Yes.

  • Abraham Lincoln: I walk slowly, but I never walk backwards.
To show ratio and time

  • 12:3
  • 09:43 am
To separate two independent but related clauses if the second clause is directly related to the first one or if the emphasis is on the second one; however, a semicolon or a full stop can be used between them.

  • Human is superior to all creatures: they are mortal.
  • Tigers can't be tamed: they are wild animals.
  • He was convicted of the murder of two girls: what he sowed, so he reaped.

7. The Apostrophe (')

The apostrophe is a punctuation mark that looks like a vertical stroke (') hanging above and behind a letter or word and is usually followed by "s". Its uses are as follows:

To show possession or relation between or over something or somebody

  • Sneha's frock
  • Obama's wife
  • The book's cover page
  • W. B. Keats's poem
Note that when a noun ends with "s" in its spelling, simply an apostrophe is used; however, some like to add an apostrophe plus "s".

  • Charles Dickens' novel OR
  • Charles Dickens's novel
Whatever it is, no need to panic that one would be wrong. We can go with any one of them but it does never mean that we can use both of them throughout a single write-up. Stick to one. On the other hand, a common noun is formed plural with -s or -es, the only apostrophe is used.
  • girls' hostel
  • cows' shed
  • players' decision

To replace letters in contracted forms

  • can't (cannot)
  • I'd (I had/would)
  • who's (who is)
To omit/drop letter(s)
  • hon'ble (honourable)
  • ne'er (never)
  • 'tis (it is)
  • e'en (even)
  • e'er (ever)
To form the plural form of letters, numbers and abbreviations

  • There are two p's in "pumpkin".  (P P)
  • Multiply five 7's. (7 7 7 7 7)
  • Five MP's were invited to the programme.

8. The Dash (—)

The dash is also known as "em dash". It is longer than a hyphen. It is especially common in informal writing. It can be used like a colon or semicolon.

Used instead of a colon or a semi-colon

  • Melina is a very kind person — she visits Jane in the hospital every day.
  • Anita had her heart in her mouth — the tiger suddenly appeared on her way.
To insert/separate some phrases or a series of examples

  • All high-profile personalities — managing directors of international industries, business tycoons and patrons — were participating in the conference.

To interrupt the sentence with a phrase or clause

  • These are the worst politicians — rubbish politicians I've ever seen.
  • He is a well-known doctor — the most praised one.
But when the interrupted sentence again resumes, the dash is to be used before and after the insertion.
  • The girl — the one I like — stood first in the examination.
  • The book — that I bought yesterday — is so meaningful.
To collect dispersed subject
  • Happiness, excitement, energy — all have gone away.
  • Always the same job, the burden of some work, the manager's irritating voice — all deserted me.

9. The Hyphen (–)

The hyphen (–) is half of the length of the dash (—). It is also known as "en dash". Its uses are as follows:

To connect the parts of a compound word or compound number

  • passer-by
  • father-in-law
  • a man-eating tiger
  • ice-cream
  • a ten-day training
  • a hundred and forty-seven students

With prefixes: all-, ex- and self-

  • all-inclusive
  • ex-girlfriend
  • self-regulated
Use it when a noun is formed from a phrasal verb

  • The aeroplane is ready for take-off.
  • I have an appointment for a check-up today.
  • He interfered with her privacy and leaked her tip-off (secret information).
  • I was very hopeful that she would help me but I had a let-down (a disappointment) only.

To connect parts of a word divided at the end of a line

Note that when a word is divided like that, that is always divided from there where a syllable breaks. Therefore, we cannot break the word like:
  • int-imate or intima-te or intim-ate
After some prefixes:
  • anti-aircraft guns
  • de-classify
  • a non-smoking zone
  • post-war effects
  • semi-retired soldiers
To indicate a word spelt out letter by letter:
  • E-L-E-P-H-A-N-T (elephant)
  • L-I-E-U-T-E-N-A-N-T (lieutenant)
To indicate stammering or sobbing:
  • I d-d-didn't m-mean that...
  • D-D-Do you t-t-think...
To indicate ranges or negative numbers:
  • Write 20-70.
  • -37° C

10. Inverted Commas (" ")

Inverted commas are also known as quotation marks. Sometimes we use single quotation marks as well. Double inverted commas are common in American English while single inverted commas are preferred in British English.

Single or double inverted commas: to enclose words and punctuation in direct speech

  • "Why are you worried about it?" he said.
  • "Don't worry. I'll be with you," she consoled me.
  • She warned me, 'A treacherous friend is like a snake in the grass.'
To draw attention to a phrase

  • Many people were arrested in the name of "national security".
  • Her word 'get lost' upset me a lot.
Around the titles of articles, books, poems, plays, movies, etc.

  • He wrote a short essay on "My School".
  • W.B. Yeats's "The Stolen Child"
  • I like to watch "3 Idiots" time and again.
When a quotation occurs within a quotation, that is marked by single inverted commas.
  • He shouted at me, "Why did you say 'I hate you' to me?"
  • He asked, "Ask her 'What is your name?'?"

11. The Slash or Forward Slash (/)

This is a vertical line which is leaning forward (/) and it is used as a punctuation mark in English. Except for it., there is another slash which leans backwards and is named "backslash" (\). The backlash is not used as a punctuation mark in English and cannot be used in place of a forward slash. It is mainly used in computer file names (D:\Documets\Essays\Democracy). Sometimes some wonder whether space is given before or after a slash. The use of space depends on the condition: if a slash indicates alternatives between the two only, space is not given; and when a slash is to indicate alternatives between phrases of multi-word terms, space comes before and after it to make reading easier.

For example:

  • We can use was/were along with the main verb in past continuous. (No space between "was and were")
  • I like what I get / I get what I like (space before and after multi-word phrase)

To indicate or

  • A teacher's job is to share his/her knowledge with students.
  • As/when she saw a snake, she screamed.
  • Dear Sir/Madam
To form abbreviations

  • A/C: Air Conditioning
  • C/O: Care of
  • N/A: Not available or Not applicable
  • R/C: Radio Control
  • W/O: Without
Note that space is not given before or after the slash.

To mean "per"

  • $50/student
  • 50 miles/litre
To separate day, month and year or to show fractions
  • 05/23/18: May 23, 2018 (AmE)
  • 10/10/2022: October 10, 2022 (AmE)
  • 05/06/19: June 5, 2019 (BrE)
  • 12/04/2022: April 12, 2022 (BrE)
  • 1/2: one-half
  • 3/4: three-fourth

To separate lines of a poem when they are written in a running text like a paragraph

  • Twinkle, twinkle, little star, / How I wonder what you are / Up above the world so high / Like a diamond in the sky. (Nursery Rhyme by Jane Tylor)
While writing lines of the poem, space is given before and after a line ends.

12. Parentheses ( )

The term "Parentheses" is common in American English while they are known as "round brackets" or "brackets" in British English. They (always appear in pairs) help to add extra information to the sentence. This additional information may make readers much clearer about the meaning of the sentence. The parenthetical information may be a phrase, fragment or complete sentence. It means what comes in the parentheses is not an integral part of a sentence. If a sentence stands grammatically correct without the parenthetical information, the use of parentheses is correct; and if not, the sentence is to be recast.

For example:

  • The foreign minister (and his official) went to participate in the international summit.
  • The foreign minister (and his secretary) seem to be over-ambitious.
Note the mistake in the second example above. Here, the parenthetical information has been used as an integral part because the verb 'seem' is in the plural form; therefore, the punctuation must be altered. That means parentheses are not be used here to write it correctly.

Use parentheses to enclose numbered or lettered lists in the running text

  • You must prepare three things from grammar: (a) tense, (b) voice and (c) punctuation to score handsome marks in the examination.
  • You need to have four essential things to learn narration: (1) number, (2) person, (3) tense and (4) case.
To enclose time zone

  • The virtual meeting will start at 7:00 am. (GMT)
For short translation

  • He understands dhanyabad (thank you) in Hindi.
When an abbreviation is before its full form, its full form comes into parentheses or vice versa.

  • The newly appointed CEO (Chief Executive Officer) has recruited eight new staff.
  • The Master of Ceremony (MC) commenced the programme on time.
Along with the proper use of parentheses, the placement of punctuation is important to consider to avoid a punctuation mistake. When a sentence in parentheses stands on its own, the punctuation mark comes inside the parentheses.

For example:

  • While studying language linguistically, basically one has to focus on phonetics, phonology, syntax and semantics. (However, pragmatics can't be ignored as well.)
But if the parenthetical part comes at the end of the sentence, punctuation is placed outside the closing parenthesis.

For example:

  • Should I invite him by telephone (right now or after some time in the evening)?

13. Square Brackets [ ]

Square brackets are also commonly called brackets. These brackets are used in the following situations:

To indicate that you have inserted your own word in an original quotation to avoid confusion on the part of readers or for clarification

  • Jane said, "She [Ann] is 25."
  • Nowadays nobody would like to visit that country [Srilanka] as there is political instability.
  • My father brought dresses [formal], pants, and some books, too.
Note that information in the brackets is not a substitution but an additional one. Therefore, we cannot write like:

  • Jane said, "Ann is 25."
  • Nowadays, nobody would like to visit Srilanka as there is political instability.

To explain or comment on the quotation

  • Two scores [today, it's forty] of goats were on his farm.

To use [sic] to show an error in the original quotation or sentence

The use of [sic] signals the readers that there was an error in the original source material and has been quoted as it was written there. [sic] means "it is so" or "this is the way it was written". While using [sic], the brackets are written in non-italic form whereas 'sic' is written in italic form. 
  • If you are in trouble than [sic] inform me as soon as possible. ("than" in place of "then")
  • The goverment [sic] must take strict action to control inflation. ("goverment" in place of "government")

14. The Ellipsis (. . .)

The ellipsis is a set of three dots. It is used when something is omitted. The very important thing to be noticed is that a single space must be given before and after each dot, except in the case when an ellipsis is followed by a quotation mark. This is used to save space or avoid irrelevant materials.

For example:

  • Yesterday . . . I voted for the one I liked.
This sentence can be expanded like:
  • Yesterday, after taking a long time to think about candidates, I came to a conclusion and voted for the one I liked.

The ellipsis is often found in formal writings. When the information is cited from the original source and if the complete information is not required, that is cited into the writing with an ellipsis where words or sentences are omitted.

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