punctuation marks

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

The Value of Punctuation

An English teacher wrote these words on the board:

woman without her man is nothing

The teacher then asked the students to punctuate the words correctly. The men wrote the top line. The women wrote the bottom line.

The value of punctuation

Summary of Punctuation Marks

Click on the link for each punctuation mark to find out more.

Punctuation Mark Name Example
full stop or period full stop or period I like English.
comma comma I speak English, French and Thai.
semi-colon semi-colon I don’t often go swimming; I prefer to play tennis.
colon colon You have two choices: finish the work today or lose the contract.
hyphen hyphen This is a rather out-of-date book.
dash dash In each town—London, Paris and Rome—we stayed in youth hostels.
question mark question mark Where is Shangri-La?
exclamation mark exclamation mark
exclamation point (AmE)
“Help!” she cried. “I’m drowning!”
slash or forward slash slash, forward slash or oblique Please press your browser’s Refresh/Reload button.
backslash backslash C:\Users\Files\jse.doc
double quotation marks double quotation marks “I love you,” she said.
single quotation marks single quotation marks ‘I love you,’ she said.
apostrophe apostrophe This is John’s car.
underline underline Have you read War and Peace?
underscore underscore bin_lad@cia.gov
round brackets round brackets I went to Bangkok (my favourite city) and stayed there for two weeks.
square brackets square brackets The newspaper reported that the hostages [most of them French] had been released.
ellipsis ellipsis mark One happy customer wrote: “This is the best program…that I have ever seen.”


Although there are general rules for English punctuation, there are differences of style between, for example, British and American English, some publishers and some writers. Anyone seeking guidance at an advanced level is recommended to consult a style guide (often included in good dictionaries) for their particular variety of English or editorial style.

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