Posts Tagged ‘punctuation’

The Importance of Being a Punctuation Mark

A dress, no mat­ter how sim­ple or drab, can always be enhanced by adding acces­sories. A sim­ple scarf, draped art­fully or an ornate broach – these are just some of the tricks. Sim­i­larly, when you come to lan­guages, a state­ment can have orna­ments too. Adjec­tives are always not the only orna­ments. Another more under­stated and under­used form is the use of punc­tu­a­tion. The use of the proper punc­tu­a­tion at the right time, can trans­form a sim­ple sen­tence into a statement.

Words like “sur­prise” and “amazed” can be replaced with the timely usage of the excla­ma­tion mark. The period as known as a full-stop can con­vey the final­ity and the ever present comma – the con­ti­nu­ity of the words. The ques­tion mark asks the unasked ques­tions. A punc­tu­a­tion mark can con­vey the unspo­ken feel­ing of a speaker in some ways that even words can­not define. The sar­casm, which might be latent in the man­ner of the speaker, can be made more obvi­ous by putting them within quotes, or even to put spe­cial empha­sis on that word. And the sense of belong­ing stated by append­ing the apostrophe.



Take for exam­ple the words “Why are you read­ing this”.
Why are you read­ing this?” states the ques­tion being asked while “Why are you read­ing this!” shows the amaze­ment of the speaker. Again, by com­bin­ing the punc­tu­a­tions we can con­vey both mean­ing. “Why! Are you read­ing this?” shows both the sur­prise and ques­tion.
“Why are you read­ing “this”?” ques­tions with empha­sis on the mate­r­ial at hand. If you place the quotes on read­ing as in “Why are you “read­ing” this?” then you would be ques­tion­ing the action.
In a sen­tence like “I’m done.” with the usage of the period you con­vey the final­ity of the intent.

In ver­bal world, often the mood and artic­u­la­tion dic­tates the punc­tu­a­tion. Often you would have heard about the float­ing terms– expres­sions, into­na­tion etc. These when trans­lated to the writ­ten world leads to the need of punc­tu­a­tion. Play­ful expres­sions of words along with imag­i­na­tive read­ing would actu­ally help you visu­al­ize the con­text in point.

Punc­tu­a­tions are a very use­ful weapon to have in your arse­nal when deal­ing with sen­tences and state­ments. With just chang­ing the place­ment, the whole mean­ing and tone of a sen­tence can be changed. Innocu­ously even, the wrong usage can cause unin­tended offense. Hence it is the duty of the author to use it well and use it judi­ciously so as to avoid any con­fu­sion, or worse, any harm.

How to use Punctuation Marks — Part 2

I hope you put to prac­tice the rules stated in the pre­vi­ous post where I talked about punc­tu­a­tion marks. Extend­ing for­ward in this post we would look into the most oft used punc­tu­a­tion marks– com­mas, semi colons etc.

Excla­ma­tion Mark

Excla­ma­tion marks are used to show the inten­sity of emo­tions. It is often used in direct speech and infor­mal notes, mes­sages and let­ters. The excla­ma­tion mark is used to express gasps, aston­ish­ment or sur­prise or to empha­size a com­ment or short, sharp phrase. It is less com­mon in for­mal writing.


  • Great work! Congratulations!
  • “Leave me alone!” she screamed


The com­mas are undoubt­edly the most used excla­ma­tion marks. They help in mak­ing the sen­tence more con­cise.
There are a num­ber of dif­fer­ent uses for com­mas in Eng­lish. Com­mas are used to:

  1. Sep­a­rate a list of items. This is one of the most com­mon uses of a comma. Notice that a comma is included before the con­junc­tion ‘and’ which comes before the final ele­ment of a list.

    • I like read­ing, lis­ten­ing to music, tak­ing long walks, and vis­it­ing with my friends.
    • They would like books, mag­a­zines, DVDs, video cas­settes, and other learn­ing mate­ri­als for their library.
  2. Sep­a­rate phrases (clauses). This is espe­cially true after a begin­ning depen­dent clause or a long prepo­si­tional phrase.

    • In order to qual­ify for your cer­tifi­cate, you will need to take the TOEFL exam.
    • Although he wanted to come, he wasn’t able to attend the course.
  3. Sep­a­rate two inde­pen­dent clauses that are con­nected by a con­junc­tion such as ‘but’.

    • They wanted to pur­chase a new car, but their finan­cial sit­u­a­tion would not allow it.
    • I’d really enjoy see­ing a film this evening, and I’d like to go out for a drink.
  4. Intro­duce a direct quote (as opposed to indi­rect speech i.e. He said he wanted to come …).

    • The boy said, “My father is often away dur­ing the week on busi­ness trips.
    • “His doc­tor replied, “If you don’t stop smok­ing, you run the risk of a heart attack.”
  5. Sep­a­rate appos­i­tives (a noun, or noun phrase) or non-defining rel­a­tive clauses.

    • Bill Gates, the rich­est man in the world, comes from Seattle.
    • My only sis­ter, who is a fan­tas­tic ten­nis player, is in great shape.

    Importance of Colon

    Impor­tance of Colon

Semi Colons

The semi­colon is placed some­where between a weak full stop and a strong comma. To dis­tin­guish between the weak full stop and strong comma you need to apply all the rules stated above in the comma header. Once you are sure about the need of a punc­tu­a­tion mark but none of the comma rules fit into it, then you are look­ing into semi colons. Semi­colons are used to join phrases and sen­tences with­out hav­ing to use con­junc­tion where the join­ing parts are inde­pen­dent by themselves.


He loves study­ing; He can’t get enough of school.
What an incred­i­ble sit­u­a­tion; it must make you nervous.


Colons pre­cede a list, an expla­na­tion or an exam­ple. You do not put a space before a colon, but you do need a space after one. A colon can be used for two purposes:

1. To pro­vide addi­tional details and explanation.


  • He had many rea­sons for join­ing the club: to get in shape, to make new friends, to lose some weight, and to get out of the house.
  • She gave notice for the fol­low­ing rea­sons: bad pay, hor­ri­ble hours, poor rela­tions with col­leagues, and her boss.

2. To intro­duce a direct quote (a comma can also be used in this situation).


  • He announced to his friends: “I’m get­ting married!”
  • She cried out: “I never want to see you again!”

How to use Punctuation Marks?

Punc­tu­a­tion means demar­cat­ing points. It means putting proper demar­cat­ing points in the right place to mark the length and mean­ing of sen­tences. Punc­tu­a­tion plays an impor­tant role in writ­ten Eng­lish world. In spo­ken world, pro­nun­ci­a­tion helps in effec­tive communication-making the mean­ing clear through tones. The same role is played by punc­tu­a­tion in writ­ten world. Hence punc­tu­a­tion essen­tially helps in dri­ving home your point of view. Punc­tu­a­tion helps in read­abil­ity by aid­ing in pro­nun­ci­a­tion and mak­ing sen­tences unclut­tered by using proper interjections.

Why is punc­tu­a­tion needed?

To under­stand the need of punc­tu­a­tion let us look at a pas­sage with­out punc­tu­a­tion and let us com­pare it with a pas­sage with punctuation.

“i would like to apply for a job with your com­pany for two years i have been employed as a sales clerk for the jones store i sold noth­ing that i did not take pride in i am sure it will be the same if i work for you”
Let us now look at the above pas­sage in light of punctuation.

“I would like to apply for a job with your com­pany. For two years I have been employed as a sales clerk for the Jones store. I sold noth­ing that I did not take pride in. I am sure it will be the same if I work for you.”

Now let us look at the same pas­sage from the point of view of improper punc­tu­a­tion placing.

Usage of Punctuation Marks

Usage of Punc­tu­a­tion Marks

“I would like to apply for a job with your com­pany for two years. I have been employed. As a sales clerk for the Jones store I sold noth­ing. That, I did not take pride in. I am sure it will be the same if I work for you.”

You can see how improper plac­ing of com­mas and full stops alters the mean­ing of sen­tences. So, one should be very care­ful while deal­ing punctuation.

Punc­tu­a­tion Marks

In this arti­cle we would pri­mar­ily look into the two punc­tu­a­tion marks often used in Eng­lish lan­guage namely the period, the ques­tion mark and the cap­i­tal let­ters. We shall see the oth­ers in the next arti­cle includ­ing com­mas and semi colons.


A period is used to com­plete a sen­tence. A sen­tence is a group of words con­tain­ing a sub­ject and pred­i­cate. A sen­tence is a col­lec­tion of words mak­ing com­plete sense. So once you find a group of words mak­ing com­plete sense, you must check whether a period is needed or not. In British Eng­lish a period is called a ‘full stop’.
He went to Lon­don last week.
He vis­ited his ances­tral home last month.

Ques­tion Marks

A ques­tion mark ends a sen­tence with a ques­tion. Basi­cally when the asker has the inten­tion of ask­ing a ques­tion, the sen­tence ends with a ques­tion mark.

Why is it so hot?
He went to Lon­don. Didn’t he?

Cap­i­tal Letters

The cap­i­tal let­ters are used in many places. Refer to the below men­tioned rules to under­stand the usage of cap­i­tal let­ters.
• At the start of a new sen­tence. Exam­ple: The cat sat on the mat. His owner sat nearby.
• For the let­ter “I” when you are refer­ring to your­self. Exam­ple: He can run faster than I can.
• For people’s names. Exam­ples: Mark Spencer.
• For titles. Exam­ples: Dr Jones, Mr Brown
• For book/film/company titles (main words only). Exam­ples: The God­fa­ther
• In direct speech, for the first spo­ken word. Exam­ple: She said, “My name is Mary.“
• For acronyms. Exam­ples: UNICEF
• For titles of days, months. Exam­ples: Mon­day, July
To under­stand and be flu­ent in punc­tu­a­tion please prac­tice the above men­tioned rules. In the next arti­cle we would see the most impor­tant punc­tu­a­tion marks namely comma and semi colon.


Punc­tu­a­tion is prob­a­bly one of the tough ele­ments of Eng­lish one remem­bers from his/her school edu­ca­tion. But, as you are here, it is time for you know that punc­tu­a­tion is so sim­ple pro­vided you are aware of some appro­pri­ate rules per­tain­ing to the usage of for­mal Eng­lish. Punc­tu­a­tion is also very impor­tant not only in the for­mal writ­ings but also dur­ing con­ver­sa­tions and pub­lic speaking.

Punc­tu­a­tion is sim­ply that refers to the appro­pri­ate usage of putting points or stops in writ­ing. For any writ­ten thing to be under­stood, it should be punc­tu­ated prop­erly. The fol­low­ing are the prin­ci­pal stops used in punctuation.

  1. Full stop or period (.)
  2. Comma (,)
  3. Semi colon (;)
  4. Colon (:)
  5. Ques­tion mark (?)
  6. Exclam­a­tory mark (!)
  7. Hyphen (-)
  8. Apos­tro­phe (‘)

We below give the main rules or guide­lines for the usage of all stops.



Full stop:

A full stop is used

a)      At the end of the sentence.(unless a ques­tion mark or exclam­a­tory mark is used).

b)      After ini­tials in name, coun­tries, medals, degrees.



V.C. (Vice chancellor)


c) After short­ened forms of words that do not end in the last let­ter of the word.



A full stop is not used

  1. After short­ened forms of words that end with the last let­ter of the word.

Dept (Depart­ment)

Lieut (Lieu­tenant)

  1. After sym­bols of mea­sure­ment km, kmph etc.
  2. After head­ings and titles.
  3. After dates: 25 June, 1890.
  4. 5. After a sig­na­ture in a letter.


A comma rep­re­sents a short­est pause, and is used

  1. To sep­a­rate words in a list

Exam­ple: I gave him a book, a rub­ber, and a ruler.

  1. To sep­a­rate adjec­tives in a sentence.

Exam­ple:  She wore a beau­ti­ful, long new coat.

  1. To show a pause by sep­a­rat­ing a phrase.

Exam­ple: The cat yawn­ing lazily closed its eyes.

  1. To show a pause by sep­a­rat­ing sentences.

Exam­ple: His room was dirty, books were scat­tered and dirty clothes lit­tered the floor.

  1. Before ‘but’

Exam­ple: The new baby was small, but strong.

  1. Before ‘as’, ‘since’, ’because’.
  2. After par­tici­ple phrases that begin sentences.

Exam­ple: Feel­ing tired, I went to bed.

  1. Before and after the words that give more infor­ma­tion about the subject.

Exam­ple:  My friend, who is a lawyer, is a ten­nis player.

  1. After ‘how­ever’.

Exam­ple: we know how­ever, that she is going to die.

  1. To sep­a­rate two prin­ci­pal clauses joined by ‘but’, ‘so’, ‘for’, ‘or’, ‘nor’.

Exam­ple: Fin­ish your home­work, or you will be punished.

  1. After ‘yes’ and ‘no’ when these begin an answer.

Exam­ple: Yes, I’m going to town.

No, it’s not late.

Com­mas are not used in a clause that specif­i­cally iden­ti­fies the noun.

Com­mas are not used in a clause that specif­i­cally iden­ti­fies the noun.

Exam­ples: This is the book which I was given for Christmas.

The teacher spoke to the boy who had misbehaved.

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