Punctuation is extremely important in the English language. A sentence with the same exact words may take on a different meaning depending on how it is punctuated.
That is George Washington.
That is George Washington?
That is George Washington!
In informal writing, punctuation rules are often more relaxed than in formal writing. However, there is a specific set of “rules” about punctuation and grammar in formal writing. This page will go over the basics.
Punctuation and Uses
Periods, question marks, and exclamation points mark the end of sentences. A period generally indicates a statement, a question mark indicates a question, and an exclamation point indicates an “exclamation” of high emotion.
Prices of stocks and bonds fluctuate.
Do you find reading textbooks difficult?
You got a great price for that dress!
Commas separate elements– clauses, phrases, and words– within sentences.
Paul got divorced recently, but he is getting married again soon.
While sugar is sweet, vinegar is sour.
My grandmother has always been kind, helpful, and interested.
Semicolons show that two independent clauses are closely related.
The storm caused severe damage; many people were left homeless.
It rained all night; however, our basement didn’t flood.
Colons can be used after an independent clause to highlight words that follow.
Mary was an unattractive child: pale, awkward, and withdrawn.
Bob announced: “Jazz is an American creation that has become popular.”
Dashes are used for emphasis, drama, and abrupt shifts in mood. They are informal.
The door was locked—or so we thought.
Only one person—the director—can hire or fire.
Hyphens are used primarily to link words. They cannot combine adverbs.
Self-esteem (compound noun)
Old-fashioned (compound adjective)
Twenty-one or 13-year-old (numbers that are written out or modify)
Anti-French (prefixes that precede proper nouns)
Quotation Marks are used to demonstrate dialogue or placed around direct quotes.
“We will celebrate with our friends another time,” said Kim.
According to the author, “Most students want to do well.”
Single Quotation Marks are used to show a quote inside another quote.
“The detective spoke to the room, ‘The culprit is one of you!’”
“‘It’s about time,’ smiled Shante Wolfe, 21, as she left the courthouse in Montgomery with partner Tori Sisson.”
Ellipses are used to show that something was removed from inside a direct quote.
“Just hours before the Supreme Court’s decision, Alabama’s chief justice had already … [pit] state’s rights against federal rulings.”
“This is not the first time that Moore … has endorsed defying a federal judge’s order.”
Parentheses are used in formal writing to indicate citation information. Informal writing sometimes uses parentheses to indicate interrupting information.
“We will celebrate with our friends another time,” said Kim (Barnes).
I will be a student at McDaniel College (I hope) in the fall.
Question Mark ?
Exclamation Point !
Quotation Marks ” ”
Single Quotation Marks ‘ ‘
Parenthesis ( )
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