We use punctuation to create sense and clarity. Every punctuation mark has a meaning and each language has its rules.
Use punctuation in English and improve your writing skills!
Table of contents of this lesson: Punctuation
The comma (,) marks a short pause between elements in a sentence.
It separates two sentences:
- It is cold outside, but I want to take a walk.
Items on a list:
- I bought bread, butter and jam.
Before question tags and short answers:
- It's a beautiful day, isn't it? Yes, it is.
In reported speech:
- "I don't understand," said Peter. / Peter said, "I don't understand."
We use quotation marks (" " or ' ') in direct speech:
- "I don't know," John replied.
To draw attention to a word:
- The word "book" can be either a noun or a verb.
We use the full stop (.)
to mark the end of a sentence:
in initials for people's names:
after abbreviations that don't contain the last letter of the shortened word:
- Prof. Smith (Professor)
- Dr McDonald (Doctor)
after an indirect question:
- He asked if the bus had left.
We use the question mark (?) at the end of a question:
- Where are you going?
- The lady said, "Where are you going?"
- Isn't it?
We use the exclamation mark (!) after exclamations and emphatic expressions:
- I can't believe it!
- Oh, no! Look!
- Here I am!
We use the colon (:)
in front of a list:
- I use three colours: green, blue and pink.
in front of an explanation or a reason:
- However, the problem remained: what should we do with him?
to introduce direct speech:
We use brackets (also called parentheses) to enclose a word or words that can be left out and still leave a meaningful sentence.
- This area (see map below) is 40 hectares.
"This area is 40 hectares" is still a meaningful sentence.
We use the hyphen (-) to join words or parts of words.
or to form an adjective: