Jemal Atamuradova Instructor of Magtymguly Turkmen State University, Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

Suddenly one day you have to produce something in writing. Is writing something you enjoy? Then you may not find it complicated.

But if you really don’t like writing at all, and you’re faced with having to write something. An advertisement maybe? A report?  Discursive writing? Some family history material? How will you deal with it?

Punctuation will actually help you to say what you want to say, and help you say it clearly. This article deals with everyday punctuation for everyday writing. In it you’ll find the basics only.

  The importance of and rules of punctuation vary from language to language. In English, punctuation is essential to allow the reader to understand the writer’s meaning.

           Which of these do you think was the writer’s real intention?

  • My interests include cooking dogs and swimming.
  • My interests include cooking, dogs and swimming.

  With no punctuation, a sentence is hard to understand.

       What is Punctuation in English? – Definition and Meaning

Larger dictionaries and English style guides give different definition on punctuation.

Punctuation means the separation of words with spaces or punctuation marks to ensure the intended meaning of a sentence is understood. Punctuation marks are symbols that are used to aid the clarity and comprehension of written language.

Punctuation means breaking apart a piece of text using spaces and symbols known as punctuation marks. Punctuation is an essential part of writing because it helps to make a piece of text easier for a reader to understand.

Punctuation is placed in text to make meaning clear and to make reading easier.

Punctuation is the system of symbols that we use to separate written sentences and parts of sentences, and to make their meaning clear. Each symbol is called a “punctuation mark”.

What are the functions of the punctuation marks?

Punctuation is placed in text to make meaning clear and to make reading easier. The various punctuation marks perform four functions:

1. they separate (a period separates sentences)

2. group or enclose (parentheses enclose extraneous information

3. connect ( a hyphen connects a unit modifier)

4. impart meaning (a question mark may make an otherwise declarative sentence interrogative).

Punctuation marks

There are fourteen basic punctuation marks in English grammar. These include the full stop, comma, exclamation point, question mark, colon, semicolon, dash, hyphen, parenthesis, bracket, braces, ellipsis, quotation mark and apostrophe.

  1. Apostrophe (‘): An apostrophe is used as a substitute for a missing letter or letters in a word (cannot = can’t), to show the possessive case(Ann’s room), and in the plural of letters, some numbers and abbreviations.
  2. Colon ( : ): A colon is used before a list or quote; it’s used to separate hours and minutes. For instance, ‘The time is 2:15‘. It’s also used to separate elements of a mathematical ratio. Another example would be ‘The ratio of girls to boys is 3:2.
  3. Comma ( , ): A comma is used to separate phrases or items in a list. For example, ‘she bought milk, eggs, and bread’.
  4. Dash ( — ): A dash is used to separate parts of a sentence. The dash is also known as an “em dash” because it is the length of a printed letter m — it is longer than a hyphen.
  5. Ellipsis (…): An ellipsis (three dots) indicates that part of the text has been intentionally left out. For instance, ‘0, 2, 4, … , 100
  6. Exclamation mark ( ! ): An exclamation point is used to show excitement or emphasis. For example, ‘It is cold!
  7. Hyphen ( – ): A hyphen is used between parts of a compound word or name. It is also used to split a word by syllables to fit on a line of text. For instance, ‘The sixteen-year-old girl is a full-time student‘.
  8. Parentheses ( ): Parentheses are curved lines used to separate explanations or qualifying statements within a sentence (each one of the curved lines is called a parenthesis). The part in the parentheses is called a parenthetical remark.This sentence (like others on this page) contains a parenthetical remark.
  9. Full stop ( . ): A full stop is used to note the end of a declarative sentence. For example, ‘I see the house.
  10. Question mark ( ? ): A question mark is used at the end of a question.
    For instance, When are we going?
  11. Speech mark ( ” ): Speech marks are used at the beginning and end of a phrase to show that it is being written exactly as it was originally said or written. She said, “Let’s eat.”
  12. Semicolon ( ; ): A semicolon separates two independent clauses in a compound sentence. A semicolon is also used to separate items in a series (where commas are already in use). Class was cancelled today; Mr. Smith was at home sick.
  13. Brackets ([ ]): Brackets are slightly different from parentheses, and they are used to show additional, technical information.

Test Your Understanding in Punctuation

Put punctuation marks where necessary

1. These are my favorite sports  hockey  basketball and tennis.

2. My uncle can make animals out of balloons  he’s going to teach me how to do it.

3. The shopping we need  a pound of apples  chocolate cake  beer and wine  toilet rolls.

4. What are you doing  Mom asked.

5.I couldn’t believe my eyes

6. We were feeling quite cheerful and enjoying the picnic  until it started to rain!

7. These are my friends  Ellie  Rohan  and Sarah.

8.  What a pity

 9. “We’ve got water and some fruit, so what else do we need for our picnic”

10.  There was no arguing with her she was set in her opinion.

Given below are the answers to the above exercise. Find out if you have identified the punctuation marks correctly.

1. These are my favorite sports: hockey, basketball, and tennis.

2. My uncle can make animals out of balloons; he’s going to teach me how to do it.

3. The shopping we need: a pound of apples; chocolate cake; beer and wine; toilet rolls.

4. “What are you doing?” Mom asked.

5.I couldn’t believe my eyes!

6. We were feeling quite cheerful and enjoying the picnic—until it started to rain!

7. These are my friends: Ellie, Rohan, and Sarah.

8.  What a pity!

 9. “We’ve got water and some fruit, so … what else do we need for our picnic?”

10. There was no arguing with her—she was set in her opinion.


  1. Visual Guide to Grammar and Punctuation.
  2. The briefest English grammar and punctuation guide ever! R. Colman
  3. Grammar, Punctuation and Capitalization. Mary K. McCaskill


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