Punctuation – Introduction – Post 15

If you are not reading this article in English, I highly recommend that you turn off the automatic translation on your browser. 

Punctuation is a fundamental aspect of any language. The presence or the absence of a comma in a sentence could radically change its general meaning. Therefore, it is very important that you learn how to interpret and use punctuation in English.

Punctuation symbols:

“ . ” – Full stop or Full point – The “full stop” generally indicates the end of a sentence and it is also used to abbreviate nouns or expressions (for example: “adj.” = Adjective; “e.g.” = exempli gratia)

“ , ” – Comma – You should use the comma when listing nouns or adjectives, or when you want to emphasize a word or a clause by positioning them in a particular place within the sentence (for instance, at the beginning.).

“ ‘ ” – Apostrophe – The apostrophe is used in contractions (don’t, aren’t, shouldn’t, etc.), it is also used to express the “possessive case” (“My father’s car.”; “Carla’s best friend.”). It can also be used to express individual letters in the plural (Like in the following sentence: The word “appear” has two P’s.)

“ ? ” – Question mark – The question mark in English is normally associated with the subject-verb inversion, and it indicates that the sentence is in fact a question rather than a statement.

“ ! ” – Exclamation mark – The exclamation mark is used to express exclamations such as “wow!”, or “Oh, my goodness!”, etc. It is also used in imperative sentences like “Don’t do that!” or “Shut up!”.

“ : ” – Colon – You should use the colon to introduce a list, a summary, or an explanation.

“ ; ” – Semicolon – You can use the semicolon to separate independent clauses, or to separate the elements of a list when those elements also contains commas. When reading, the semicolon should be interpreted as a pause longer than a comma but shorter than a full stop.

“ – ” – Hyphen – The hyphen indicates that two words have been joined together in order to create a new word (for example: back-up; post-mortem; self-interest). The hyphen is also used to divide words at the end of a line when the whole word doesn’t fit on it.

“ – ” – En dash – (Alt + 0150) – The en dash is commonly used to express the span or range of numbers, dates, or time; and it is usually read as “to” (1982–87; 01:00a.m.–02:00a.m.) – Note: The en dash is longer than the hyphen.

“ — ” – Em dash – (Alt + 0151) – Em dashes can replace commas when emphasizing a particular clause which adds information in a sentence. They can also replace parentheses “( )”. In both cases a pair of em dashes are required. A single em dash is possible at the end of a sentence. For example: Clean air, fresh water, singing birds—it was a paradise.

Note: Em dashes are always more emphatic than commas, parentheses, or colons. Note: they are longer than en dashes.

“ ( ) ” – Parentheses – Parentheses are always used in pairs, and they usually enclose additional information.

“ “” ” / “ ‘’ ” – Quotation marks – You should use quotation marks when quoting somebody’s words, or sentences. – (‘ = Alt+0145; ’ = Alt+0146)

“ … ” – Ellipsis or Suspension points – Ellipsis indicates that part of the sentence is being omitted. They can also express hesitation, and in that case you can call them “suspension points”.