Punctuation Explained (with Examples)

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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.
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