18/11/2019

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A Comprehensive List of Punctuation Marks

by Bennett R. Coles

List of Punctuation Marks PDF

Here’s a full list of punctuation marks to add structure and clarity to your writing. Below, you’ll find detailed information about their usage with plenty of examples to use as a reference.

Role of Punctuation Marks in Language

Punctuation marks are symbols that add clarity and order to written language. But they’re often misunderstood and misused by writers. The comprehensive list of punctuation marks that follows will help you avoid common mistakes that can lead to reader confusion.

List of Punctuation Marks

Punctuation Marks that are Used at the end of Sentences:

1) The Period: This punctuation mark is used to indicate the end of a sentence containing a statement of thought, opinion or fact, a story or any written account of events. It’s also used at the end of abbreviations (e.g. “Johnson Ave.”)

2) The Exclamation Mark: This punctuation mark is used to express strong feelings, a strong emotion, for emphasis or to indicate screaming or shouting (e.g. “Apologize right now!”)

3) The Question Mark: This punctuation mark is used to end interrogative sentences. In works of fiction it can also be used to express doubt (e.g. “I’m supposed to say that?”)

Punctuation Marks that are Used in the Middle of Sentences:

4) The Comma: This punctuation mark is used:

  • To separate three or more elements in a sentence that are related in some way (e.g. “The grocery list included apples, bananas, strawberries, grapes, and oranges.”)
  • After introductory words before stating a main clause (e.g. “In other words, the best way to find it…”)
  • To create a pause (e.g. “She implied that, without any doubt, he was going to be the suspect.”)
  • To separate two interchangeable adjectives (e.g. “He moved that large, bulky load down the street.”)
  • To separate two independent clauses that are joined by the connectors “and, but, for, or, nor, so, and yet” (e.g. “She went away, yet her heart never did.”
  • After a dependent clause that’s used to start a sentence (e.g. “After a thorough review, she published the report.”)
  • To separate the name of a city from the name of its state (e.g. “I was born in San Diego, California.”)
  • To separate a statement from a question (e.g. “They all came home in the end, right?”)
  • To introduce or to end a direct quotation (e.g. “Call her again,” he insisted)
  • When necessary to eliminate confusion (e.g. “The travelers, who missed their connection, were given meal vouchers”–i.e. all travelers were given meal vouchers–has a completely different meaning than “The travelers who missed their connection were given meal vouchers”–i.e. only some travelers were given meal vouchers.)

5) The Colon: This punctuation mark primarily follows an independent clause with more information that expands on the original clause.

Colons have many applications in written language. For example, they can be used:

  • To separate a title from a subtitle (e.g. “The Space Race: From Sputnik to Spacex”)
  • To explain a subject (e.g. “This is how to mix the batter for better results: first, you…”)
  • To describe a situation (e.g. “There are two alternatives to this approach: assemble the parts first and then paint them or paint all parts at the factory.”)
  • Before a definition (e.g. “Here’s what XXX means: <explanation goes here>”)
  • To create a list of items (e.g. “This recipe requires: 3 eggs, ¼ lb of butter, 2 cups of flower,…”)
  • For literary references in some religious texts (e.g. “Genesis 1:2”)
  • To highlight statements made by characters in literary works (e.g. “To all of you: I never said that!”)
  • To separate hours, minutes and/or seconds (e.g. “9:30 AM,” “10:45:12”)
  • After a salutation (e.g. “Dear John:”)
  • To express mathematical ratios (e.g. “1:3”)

6) The Semi-Colon: This punctuation mark is primarily used to combine two independent clauses that are related into a single sentence (e.g. “The doctor saw the patient immediately; the slightest delay would’ve proven fatal.”)

They can also be used to separate items on a list that contain commas themselves (e.g. “On this tour we’ll visit Belgrade, Serbia; Minsk, Belarus; and Bucharest, Romania.”)

Semi-colons create a kind of pause that is longer than the pause of a comma but shorter than the pause of a period at the end of a sentence.

Quotation Marks:

9) Double Quotation Marks: This punctuation mark is used:

  • To make words or phrases within sentences stand out (e.g. The best approach is to “ease” into the spot slowly)
  • To highlight a quotation (e.g. I wonder where the expression “Money doesn’t grow on trees” comes from.)
  • To show dialogue in literary works (e.g. “Do I enter the room now?” whispered Simon)
  • To show titles of books, movies, essays, songs, headlines, etc. (e.g. “The Art of Living”)

8) Single Quotation Marks: This punctuation mark is used in a small number of special circumstances, specifically:

  • When there’s a quotation within a quotation (e.g. The sign read: “To swim in the ‘Restricted Area’ you must always wear an approved flotation device”)
  • To denote technical terms in specialized fields (e.g. “The ‘villi’ are responsible for the absorption of nutrients in the small intestine.”)

Brackets:

9) Parentheses: This punctuation mark is used to add secondary context to the information in a sentence—e.g. “The main thruster (which was designed to be expendable) was not recovered.”

10) Square Brackets: This punctuation mark is a specialized form of parentheses that is used:

  • To show parentheses within parentheses—e.g. “(this study was published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers [IEEE])”
  • To quote text that has been altered from the original—e.g. “She accused the hospital [staff] of wrongdoing.”
  • To show incorrect text in a quote through the use of the latin term sic—e.g. “She accused they [sic] of wrongdoing.”
  • To show the phonetic pronunciation of a word—e.g. “Kazakh or Qazaqşa [qɑˈzɑqʃɑ] is a branch of the Turkic language that’s spoken in Kazakhstan.”

11) Curly Brackets: This punctuation mark is used to show a list of equal choices (e.g.” Choose a color: {red, green, yellow, blue}”)

12) Angle Brackets: This punctuation mark has very little use in written language and it’s mainly used to write code in computer languages. Sometimes it’s used to show a placeholder text (e.g. “Enter your account ID: <your email address goes here>”)

Dashes:

13) Hyphen: This punctuation mark is used to join words together.

For example, you should:

  • Hyphenate multiple words that are grouped together as a single modifier to a noun (e.g. “This is a best-in-show category.”)
  • Hyphenate multiple words indicating a period of time that are used together as a modifier to a noun (e.g. “That thirty-year-old man is looking for work.”)
  • Hyphenate numerical fractions when spelled out (e.g. “Two-thirds, three-quarters, etc.”)
  • Hyphenate family relationships (e.g. “She’s John’s great-grandmother,” “Peter is Susan’s brother-in-law”)
  • Hyphenate compound words to eliminate confusion (e.g. “You should re-sign this check.” instead of “You should resign this check.”)

14) Em Dash: This punctuation mark is used to create a break in a sentence in order to add more context. They can be used as a pair, just like commas, or as a single occurrence. Here are some examples:

  • Use of single em dash: “This is a good example of the use of em dashes—the longest in the dash family.”
  • Use of pair of em dashes: “This is a good example of the use of em dashes—a useful punctuation mark—to illustrate a sentence break.”

15) En Dash: This punctuation mark is used mainly to show ranges of figures (e.g. “$200–$500”) and when the first part of a compound adjective is an open compound (e.g. “He’s a New York–based photographer.”)

Slashes:

16) Slash: This punctuation mark is used:

  • To denote numerical fractions and dates (e.g. “2/3” and “10/11/19”)
  • To denote an option (e.g. “and/or, “his/her,” etc.)
  • To denote prose, such as lines in poetry or song lyrics (e.g. “Imagine there’s no countries/It isn’t hard to do/Nothing to kill or die for/And no religion, too.”)
  • To denote abbreviations (e.g. “c/o for: in care of,” “n/a for: not applicable”)

17) Backslash: This punctuation mark is used strictly to code computer languages and has no use in written language.

Other Punctuation Marks:

18) The Apostrophe: This punctuation mark is used:

  • To denote possessive forms (e.g. “John’s baseball bat”)
  • To denote contracted forms (e.g. “don’t”)
  • To denote abbreviated years (e.g. “She was born in ‘82”)
  • To denote certain plurals (e.g. “He was born in the 60’s”)

19) The Ellipsis: This punctuation mark is used:

  • To add a pause in speech (e.g. “I think so… do you?”)
  • Or to show an omission (e.g. “… as I was saying the worst is finally behind us.”)

20) The Asterisk: This punctuation mark is used:

  • To refer readers to a footnote (e.g. “This information was obtained from the 10K report*”)
  • To denote an inappropriate word (e.g. “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck”)
  • To denote a disclaimer (e.g. “Restrictions apply*”)

In conclusion

Punctuation marks are symbols used to add clarity and order to written language.

Now that you have a clear understanding of the different types of punctuation marks and how to use them properly, you’ll be able to craft sentences and paragraphs that’ll enhance the reading comprehension of your audience.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to learn more about how to excel in the writing craft be sure to check out my free nonfiction writing guide, drawn from years of experience editing books for bestselling authors (including a New York Times bestseller) and ghostwriting for CEOs and politicians. Simply click here to get instant access.

Ben

Leave me a comment below if you have any questions or a specific need that I can help you address – I operate an author services firm that specializes in helping entrepreneurs, professionals and business owners who want to publish books as a calling card for prospects, to establish their status as an expert or to just to generate additional leads for their businesses.

Here are some related posts I highly recommend:

How to Write a Compelling Book in 12 Steps: A Must-Read Guide for Nonfiction Authors

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Bennett R. Coles
Bennett R. Coles

Bennett R. Coles is an award-winning author of six books published through Harper Collins (New York) and Titan Publishing Group (London). He is also the publisher at Promontory Press, editor for multiple bestselling authors (including a NY Times bestseller), ghostwriter for CEOs and politicians and the founder of Cascadia Author Services, a boutique full-service firm that specializes in premium author services specifically designed for busy professionals. Our end-to-end services include writer coaching, ghostwriting, editing, proofing, cover design, book layout, eBook production, marketing, printing and distribution.

  1. Avatar
    Bridget Arregger

    Thank you Bennett for this very useful Guide. I have recently come across the interrobang ‽ and the percontation mark. Would you be interested in adding these? and telling us how to get them on our computers?
    Thanks,
    Bridget

  2. Avatar
    Chalachew

    Thank you for clarifying to us!

  3. Avatar
    Denis

    WOW it wondeful and mind-blowing thank a lot❤️?

    1. Avatar
      Usman Wada Adam

      Words seem insufficient to express my happiness for this useful and educative writing! Thanks awfully once again!

  4. Avatar
    Pallavi

    its really helpfull sir thankyou soo much …..

    1. Avatar
      Diana munkombwe

      Really enjoyed reading thank you sir?

  5. Avatar
    Ncube sithabiso

    I learnt a lot. Thank you

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