Punctuation Rules for English

Punctuation is a set of symbols that makes the meaning of writing clear to the reader. Every sentence contains at least one of the 14 punctuation marks in English. Each rule is written is simple English and examples are included. Follow these punctuation rules to write clearly and effectively.

1. Period (Full Stop): use a period to end a statement, mild command, or indirect question and after most abbreviations.

  • Statement: I like to ride a bicycle.
  • Mild Command: Be patient. Give me a minute.
  • Indirect Question: I wonder if you want to go to the park.
  • Abbreviations: Mr.  Dr.  St.  Rd.  W.  N.  a.m.  p.m.  oz.   lb.

2. Question Mark: use after a direct question.

  • What is the answer?
  • Do you like spaghetti? 
  • Are you going to the library?

3. Exclamation Mark: use after a sentence that shows emotion, direct command, and interjection.

  • Sentence: We won! That's great!
  • Direct command: Stop doing that!  
  • Interjection: Wow! Wonderful!

4. Apostrophe:

  • Contractions: I'm, can't, we'll, you've, that's
  • Possession: girl's dress, Gus' hat, boys' room, men's coats
  • Multiple Possession: (Joint) Ann and Ted's home, (Separate) Nick's and May's shoes
  • Plural letters: Elliott has two l's and two t's.

5. Quotation Mark: 

  • Direct Quotes: "Good morning," she said. He replied, "Good day."
  • Titles of movies, plays, TV shows: I loved watching "Sesame Street".
  • Titles of books, newspapers, magazines: My favorite book is "Heidi".
  • Titles of music albums, operas, musical theater: We saw "Cats" on Broadway.
  • Titles of painting, sculptures, works of art: We saw "The Starry Night" at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.
  • Technical or unusual terms: It's an oil extraction method called "fracking".

6. Comma:

  • Items in a series: I ate eggs, bacon, toast, and juice for breakfast.
  • Series of adjectives: He is an eager, smart, hard-working student.
  • Items in an address: My address is 313 Fox Way, Lee, FL
  • Items in a date: Monday, June 21, 2020
  • Numbers: 1,500,000
  • Personal Title: Lynn Collins, MD
  • A quotation: She said, "I must go there."
  • Salutation of a friendly letter: Dear Dad,
  • Closing of a letter: Sincerely,
  • Introductory Elements:
    • Mike, please get some paper.
    • Yes, I want to go.
  • Compound Sentence (Independent Clause + Independent Clause) Before coordinating conjunctions: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so
    • I like pizza, and I like spaghetti.
    • Complex Sentence (Dependent Clause + Comma + Independent Clause):
      • Before he went shopping, he made a list.
    • Transitional Expression:
      • Joe didn't understand; therefore, he did not do the assignment.
    • Parenthetical expression:
      • Evolution, as far as we know, does not work this way.
    • Absolute Phrase:
      • His chess game at last perfected, Tom won the trophy.
    • Contrasted elements:
      • Betty, unlike Kathy, enjoyed all kinds of sports.

    7. Colon:

    • Preceding a List:
      • The class consists of the following: phonics, decoding techniques, fluency practice, reading strategies, and comprehension skills.

    8. Semicolon: 

    • Compound Sentence to Separate Independent clauses:
      • He can dance; he cannot swim.
    • Separate items with commas: I have lived in Fort Wayne, Indiana; Memphis Tennessee; Louisville, Kentucky; and Pasadena, California.

    9. Parentheses: 

    • Related Items that are unnecessary: We visited several states (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois) on our vacation.

    10. Ellipses:

    • Omitting part of a Quote: "Your time is limited, so don't waste it ..." Steve Jobs
    • Dialogue Pause or Trailing Off: "I hope will be better soon ..." whispered the dying child.