Punctuation Explained (with Examples)

Our most common search themes:

Punctuation Explained (with Examples)

Punctuation is the use of conventional characters (e.g., commas, semicolons) to improve clarity. In general, punctuation aids comprehension by showing a reader which words are grouped and where to pause.

The main punctuation characters are:

Punctuation (Apostrophes)

Apostrophes are used: Apostrophes are not used: Read more about using apostrophes.

Punctuation (Colons)

Colons are used: Read more about using colons.

Punctuation (Commas)

A comma is used: Read more about using commas.

Punctuation (Hyphens)

Hyphens are joiners. They are used: Their main purpose is to show the joined words are a single entity (e.g., a single adjective or a single noun). They are also useful to avoid ambiguity (e.g., a hyphen makes it clear that a paper-clip is a clip for paper and not a clip made of paper).

Read more about using hyphens.

Punctuation (Round Parentheses)

Round parentheses (brackets) are used:
  • To insert extra information (often an afterthought, clarification, or expansion of a recently mentioned idea)
  • (e.g., Set in the 17th century, The Three Musketeers ("Les Trois Mousquetaires" in French) is a novel by Alexandre Dumas.)
  • To present a plural option with a singular one
  • (e.g., Your guest(s) must leave before midnight.)
Read more about using round parentheses.

Punctuation (Square Parentheses)

Square parentheses (brackets) are used:
  • To make quoted text clearer by expanding on or replacing part of the quote.
  • (e.g., If you don't like them [my principles], well, I have others.)
  • To make it clear that terms like [sic] and [] are insertions by the current author not the originator.
  • (e.g., In your statement, you wrote: "I appraised [sic] him of the situation at about 4 o'clock.")
Read more about using square parentheses.

Punctuation (Period / Full Stop)

A period (.) (or full stop in the UK) is a punctuation mark used: Read more about periods / full stops.

Punctuation (Semicolons)

Semicolons are used: Semicolons are not used for introductions (e.g., I would blame one thing for my divorce; beer. It should be a colon.)

Read more about using semicolons.

Punctuation (Quotation Marks)

Quotation marks (or speech marks as they're also called) are used: Read more about using quotation marks.
Your score:

Select the right punctuation character for the yellow space.

Take a harder test on punctuation.

More Free Help...

All the lessons and tests on Grammar Monster are free. Here's some more free help:

Follow Us on Twitter Follow us on Twitter
Like us on Facebook Follow us on Facebook
by Craig Shrives Follow us on Google+
mail tip Sign up for our daily tip emails
Chat about grammar Ask a grammar question
Search Search this site

Buy Some Help...

Too busy to read everything on Grammar Monster? Here are the paid services we recommend to learn grammar and to keep your writing error free:

Paste your text into Grammarly's online interface for corrections and recommendations. (Free trial available)

Press F2 while using Word, PowerPoint, etc., for corrections and recommendations. (Free trial available)

Send your text to a trained editor and grammar geek for checking. (Free trial available)

Learn English (or another language) with a state-of-the-art program. (Free trial available)

Buy Our Book...

Buy "Grammar Rules: Writing with Military Precision" by Craig Shrives (founder of Grammar Monster).

More info...