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What Are Punctuation Marks?

In writing, we employ words. In addition to words, we employ a variety of symbols and characters to organize our thoughts and make writing easier to read. Punctuation marks are one of these characteristics. 

Punctuation marks, like words, play an important part in ensuring that our messages are clear. 

If you are one of those who are wondering, “What are punctuation marks?” and if they really are important, this article is for you. 

Please continue reading if you want to find out more about the different punctuation marks and when to use them. 

Punctuation Marks

Punctuation is the act or system of employing certain marks or symbols in writing to distinguish between various elements or to make the text more readable. 

Punctuation is used in English and other languages that employ the Latin script. Punctuation is also used in many other writing systems. 

There are numerous punctuation marks in the English language, and you will learn to use many of them as you master the language. 

Even if you use and encounter punctuation marks on a regular basis, there are several usages you may not be aware of.

Here are the different punctuation marks used in the English language: 

  • Full Stop (.)
  • Question Mark (?) 
  • Quotation Marks (“ ”)
  • Exclamation Mark (!)
  • Apostrophe (‘) 
  • Comma (,)
  • Hyphen (-)
  • Dash (en dash – ) (em dash –)
  • Colon (:)
  • Semicolon (;)
  • Parentheses ( )
  • Brackets [ ]
  • Ellipsis …
  • Slash / 

What are the 14 Types of Punctuation Marks?

There are a total of 14 punctuation marks in the English language. You should be aware of each one and how to use it if you want to make your work easier to read and look more professional. 

Here is the breakdown of the different punctuation marks and how to apply them correctly.

1. Full Stop (.)

In American English, a full stop is sometimes known as a period. It is one of the most often used punctuation symbols in the English language. 

Full stops make up over half of all punctuation marks used, according to text analysis.


  • My name is James and I am from Philadelphia.
  • She loves to bake in her free time.

2. Question Mark (?)

Simply said a question mark signifies that a sentence is asking a question. It appears at the end of every interrogative sentence.


  • How long have you been waiting?
  • Are you going to attend the meeting later?

3. Exclamation Mark (!)

To emphasize anything, an exclamation mark is utilized. It can be used either in the midst or at the end of a statement. It also serves as a full stop or a period when employed at the end of a sentence.


  • I can’t believe I won!
  • That is such a lovely dress you’re wearing!

4. Quotation Marks (“ ”)

Quotation marks are used to indicate someone else’s text, speech, or words. It is also used to denote a conversation.


  • “Can I go with you to the park tomorrow?” my little sister asked me. 
  • “I almost missed my flight because my alarm went off!” exclaimed Mr. Cruz. 

5. Apostrophe (‘) 

An apostrophe indicates that certain letters in a word have been omitted. 

Aside from expressing the plural form of lowercase letters, the punctuation symbol can also be used to represent the possessive form of a noun.



  • I will meet my friends later in the evening.
  • I’ll meet my friends later in the evening.
  • He is the founder and owner of the company.
  • He’s the founder and owner of the company.


  • My sister’s room is bigger than mine.
  • Peter’s new car was gifted by his parents

6. Comma (,)

A comma separates two independent ideas or elements within a sentence. 

Commas can also be used to separate numbers and write dates.

There are a few comma rules to look out for in the English language, let’s look at a few of them.

a. When two different clauses are joined, use a comma.


  • We went to the park, and decided to watch a movie after. 
  • Because I woke up late, I was late for school. 

b. In a string of words, use commas to separate them. The last word in the sequence is not followed by a comma.


  • She is friendly, smart, and talented. 
  • He has been to China, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia. 

c. To divide an opening part from the rest of the sentence, use a comma.


  • As the sun started to rise, they packed their things and went on their way.
  • By the time the police reached the place, the burglars had run off.

d. Set the words ‘yes’ and ‘no’ apart with a comma.


  • Yes, I’ll have some water, please.
  • No, she did not make it here on time. 

e. To separate a tag question from the remainder of the statement, use a comma.


  • You did not tell her about the plans, did you? 
  • We can check-in at the hotel early, can’t we? 

f. To specify a direct address, use a comma.


  • Is that true, Phil? 
  • Is it you, Sue? 

g. When a participle phrase clause is used, a comma should be added.


  • Walking slowly, I was able to enjoy the view of the colorful garden. 
  • Pushed by her teachers, she joined the writing competition. 

h. To separate sections of the date, use a comma.


  • Today is Monday, January 15, 2018.
  • Friday, June 17, 2011, is when I graduated high school.

7. Hyphen (-)

A hyphen is a punctuation mark that can be used in three different ways. 

Many people mix up this punctuation mark with the dash, although they’re not the same thing. The hyphen can be used to show word breaks, link words to prefixes, and link words to prefixes.

a. To make a compound term, use a hyphen to connect two or more words. To separate the terms, do not use spaces.


  • She needs to boost her self-confidence. 
  • My mom works as a part-time bank employee. 

b. Use a hyphen to connect prefixes and words. 


  • She maintains a friendly relationship with her ex-husband. 
  • He started working in the company in mid-August. 

8. Dash (en dash ) (em dash ––)

The dash is a punctuation mark that is used to split words into statements. It can also be used to separate words or phrases that are not crucial to the statement’s content. 

A dash can be used in locations where a comma would normally be used instead. The en dash and the em dash are the two types of dashes.

i) En dash (–)

The en dash denotes a range of possibilities or connections.


  • 1990 – 1998
  • New York – Princeton trains

ii) Em Dash (––)

The em dash is double the size of the en dash and can be employed to improve readability or mark the end of a sentence instead of a comma, parenthesis, or colon.


  • She gave him a quick response –– YES. 
  • Please talk to my supervisor –– Mr. Smith. 

9. Colon (:)

A colon is a reasonably popular punctuation mark that has a wide range of applications. 

It can be used to begin a quote, an example, a series, or even a description. It can also be used to divide two independent clauses. 

Finally, a colon might be used to emphasize anything.


  • I have two options: submit my paper tonight or fail the course. 
  • She has all the ingredients: flour, egg, baking powder, butter, and milk. 

10. Semicolon (;)

A semicolon is used to separate two distinct sentences while indicating that they have a tight relationship. 

A semicolon is more effective than a full stop in indicating the connection between two statements.


  • My dad is a college professor; my mom is an accountant. 
  • She always sleeps with the lights on; she is afraid of the dark. 

11. Parentheses ( )

Quote marks with parentheses show extra ideas regarding a statement. 

They can be substituted with commas in many cases without changing the meaning of the phrase. Parentheses are also frequently used to separate less significant details.


  • The new students (Alex and John) are welcomed warmly by the class. 
  • I went to watch a movie with Jane (my youngest sister). 

12. Brackets [ ]

Brackets are squared-off quotations that are used to display technical information. The statement would still make sense if this information was eliminated entirely.


  • Were they [the guests] satisfied with the service of the hotel?
  • Is it [the laptop] yours? 

13. Ellipsis …

Three dots (…) are commonly used to symbolize an ellipsis, however, three asterisks (***) can also be used. 

This punctuation mark indicates that some letters or words have been omitted. 

Ellipses are frequently used to shorten statements in order to eliminate extraneous or irrelevant words that will not affect the meaning of the statement. 

An ellipsis is frequently used to indicate that portions of a sentence have been left out.


  • To be continued…
  • You won’t believe what she told me…

14. Slash / 

A slash, sometimes known as a forward slash, a virgule, or an oblique dash, can be used in various ways.

When lines in a song or poem are written in a continuous line, the slash might be used to separate them. The slash can also be substituted for the word ‘or’ and to indicate two opposing ideas.

a. To distinguish sections of the internet (web) addresses and file names for some computer programs, use slashes.



b. Use a slash for fractions. 


  • She ate 2/3 of the pizza. 
  • He gave 1/2 of his salary to his parents. 

c. To separate the year, month, and day in a date, use a slash.


  • The Titanic sank on 04/15/1912.
  • She was born on 11/21/1996. 

d. To represent the term ‘per’ in measures, use a slash.


  • 60 miles per hour – 60 miles/hour
  • 1200 words per minute – 1200 words/minute 

e. To divide lines of poetry or rhymes in regular text, use a slash.


  • Who loves a garden / Finds within his soul / Life’s whole / He hears the anthem of the soil / …

f. To show alternatives in a sentence, use a slash.


  • Ask him/her if you can go with your friends tonight. 
  • Sir/Madam…

British vs. American English Punctuation Marks

Most people know the differences in spelling and syntax between American and British English. But are you also aware that there are also disparities in punctuation? 

Below are the differences between British English and American English when it comes to punctuation marks. 

Quotation Marks 

Periods and commas are enclosed in double quote marks in American English. They are placed outside single quote marks in British English.

British EnglishAmerican English
‘We don’t have time for a lengthy debate or a committee decision,’ Andy said. “We don’t have time for a lengthy debate or a committee decision,” Andy said. 
‘Do we have time for a lengthy debate or a committee decision,’ Andy asked. “Do we have time for a lengthy debate or a committee decision,” Andy asked.

Quotations Within Quotations 

Double quotation marks (“…”) are employed for the first quotation while single quotation marks (‘…’) are used for subsequent quotations in American English. 

The first quotation in British English is marked with a single mark, but a quotation within it is marked with a double mark.

British EnglishAmerican English
“We don’t have time for a lengthy debate or, as the management has railed against, “decision by the committee”’, Andy said.   “We don’t have time for a lengthy debate or, as the management has railed against, ‘decision by the committee,” Andy said.   


In American English, commas are also used to format dates, although in British English, they are usually omitted.

British EnglishAmerican English
My parents are coming on Friday 15 March. My parents are coming on Friday, 15 March.


In British English, compound nouns and adjectives that are written as a single unit in American English are frequently hyphenated.

Similarly, British English frequently utilizes a hyphen to distinguish prefixes from the words to which they are connected. Still, American English does not, particularly when the final letter of the prefix and the initial letter of the root word are the same or where lack of the hyphen could result in mispronunciation.

British EnglishAmerican English








All abbreviated personal or professional titles in American English feature a period (or full stop)

A period when a title concludes with the same letter as the entire form is not included in Commonwealth usage. When the last letter is not the same as the entire version, it adds the period.

British EnglishAmerican English
Mr. and Mrs. Brookes will see Dr. Peterson this morning and then Prof. Brown tomorrow afternoon.Mr. and Mrs. Brookes will see Dr. Peterson this morning and then Prof Brown tomorrow afternoon.


For a time, American English uses a colon (:). A full stop is employed in British English (.)

British EnglishAmerican English
The meeting starts at 2.00 PM.The meeting starts at 2:00 PM. 

Commonly Used Punctuation Marks in Writing

Punctuation marks add quiet intonation to our work. A period, a comma, an exclamation point, or a question mark are used to pause, stop, emphasize, or ask a question. 

Punctuation helps improve the precision and clarity of writing by allowing you to stop, pause, or highlight specific areas of a sentence.

Here are the most common punctuations used in academic writing and how to best use them for your writing to appear professional. 

1. Apostrophes

It is typical for English language learners to commit errors with this punctuation mark since they have a tendency to overuse it by putting it in places where it does not belong. 

In reality, the apostrophe serves only two purposes. 

These functions are to: 

(1) show the omission (deletion) of letters inside a word and 

(2) to demonstrate the ownership (possession) of one concept or object over another.

Are Apostrophes an Academic Punctuation Mark?

The apostrophe is thought to have entered the English language in the 16th century as a result of a copy of French punctuation; the term ‘apostrophe’ is of Greek origin and means ‘turning aside or deleting.’ 

Apostrophe, as is customary in languages, the apostrophe evolved over time, expanding its use to incorporate features of possession and pluralization.

While some grammarians vigorously defend the correct use of the apostrophe, others argue that the apostrophe is ‘largely decorative’ and adds little clarity to the language and that it should be removed entirely from English. 

Though the removal of an apostrophe is common in speech, it is especially unusual in academic situations since contracted forms like ‘hadn’t’ (from ‘had not’) and ‘shouldn’t’ (from ‘should not’) are often thought to be unacceptable. 

The only occasion a student might need to utilize such forms is when offering a direct quotation from another author or source – in which case, these marks should be written correctly.

How Can Apostrophes Correctly Show Omission?

Showing omission or when one or more letters of a word are removed in order to make the term shorter and easier to pronounce is one of the major functions of an apostrophe. But do not be tricked as it is not as simple as it seems. 

There are rules that you have to adhere to, to be able to use apostrophes correctly. 

Rule #1 – Abbreviation

Abbreviations come in a wide variety of forms, but they are most commonly defined as reducing the length of a word, phrase, or larger piece of text. 

While most abbreviations do not need an apostrophe or a full stop to be grammatically correct, some do.

Abbreviation TypeExamplesOriginal Words
The first letter is omitted ‘80s, ‘bout1980s, about
The middle letter is omittedgov’t, Jo’burggovernment, Johannesburg
The last letter is omittedanythin’, lovin’anything, loving
The first and last letters are omitted ‘flu, ‘ninfluenza, and

Rule #2 – Contractions 

Despite the fact that contractions are a type of abbreviation, they are formed for a different reason and manner. 

While the letters from only one word were omitted in the preceding abbreviations, the apostrophe is used to not only omit letters and sounds but also to link two or more words together in contractions. 

Most contractions connected by an apostrophe are usually a combination of modal or copula verbs and other words such as pronouns. 

Abbreviation TypeExamplesOriginal Words
Using ‘is’ and ‘are’she’s

she is

they are
Using ‘has’ and ‘have’ he’s

he has

you have
Using ‘will’ and ‘would’ it’ll

it will

that would
Using ‘not’ isn’t

is not

had not

Rule #3 – Compound Words

Compound words are words formed by combining two or more words, such as the noun ‘workbook’, which is formed by combining the terms ‘work’ and ‘book’. 

When a compounded term like this was traditionally abbreviated, apostrophes were employed, thus words like ‘net’ from ‘internet’ or ‘phone’ from ‘telephone’ were written as follows:

Compound WordOld UsageModern Usage 
telephone ‘phonephone

Rule #4 – Geographical Names 

Finally, you may infrequently find specific geographical names truncated with an apostrophe, such as ‘W’hampton’ instead of ‘Wolverhampton’ or ‘Land O’ Lakes’ instead of ‘Land of Lakes’, which, like most omissions, is rarely employed in academic writing. 

How Can Apostrophes Correctly Show Possession?

This section explains how to use apostrophes to demonstrate possession between two concepts or objects. 

It is worth noting that using terminology like ‘possession’ or ‘ownership’ to describe the following relationships is a bit of a misnomer. Only about half of the punctuation used in the English language genuinely denotes possession.

Rule #1 – Apostrophes with Pronouns 

While personal pronouns like ‘I’ and ‘you’ should never need an apostrophe because they cannot show possession, indefinite pronouns like ‘anybody/anyone’, ‘everybody/everyone’, ‘nobody/no-one’, and ‘somebody/someone’ can.


indefinite pronouns + apostrophe + -sIt’s anybody’s ballgame at this point. It has to be someone’s key. 

Rule #2 – Apostrophes with Possessive Adjectives

The norm is that possessive adjectives such as ‘my’ or ‘your’ (which are also referred to as possessive pronouns) are already possessive and do not require the addition of an apostrophe or the ‘-s’ suffix. 

The third-person ‘its’ – which is the possessive version of ‘it’, should not be confused with ‘it’s’  – a contraction of ‘it is’. 

Phrase Wrong UsageCorrect Usage
it is – it’sIts a sunny day today. It’s a sunny day today.
its The cat is wagging it’s tail.The cat is wagging its tail.

Rule #3 – Apostrophes with Singular Nouns

When making a singular noun possessive, whether countable or uncountable, the simplest rule is to add an apostrophe and the suffix ‘-s’ to the noun that possesses ownership. 

There can be some confusion and variety here because many common nouns, such as ‘bus’ or ‘spectacles’, and many proper nouns, such as ‘Jones’ and ‘Hastings’, already end in a ‘-s’

It is uncertain if an apostrophe and a ‘-s’ should be added to the end of the current noun or just the apostrophe in such cases.

Common NounsProper Nouns 
the bus’s driver

the class’s project
Achilles’ heel

Dickens’ novels 

Rule #4 – Apostrophes with Plural Nouns

The basic norm here is to add merely an apostrophe and not the additional possessive ‘-s’ to standard plural nouns already ending in the plural suffix ‘-s’. 

However, an apostrophe and the suffix ‘-s’ should be added to the end of irregular nouns. 

Regular Plural Nouns Plural Proper Nouns Irregular Plural Nouns 
these bags’ ownerthe Joneses’ propertythe women’s room
my parents’ anniversarythe Townses’ businessthe children’s books
her pens’ colors the Stuartses’ daughters the people’s belief

Rule #5 – Showing Joint Possession 

When there are multiple possessors in the same noun phrase, it may be essential to indicate an individual or joint possession. 

The rules in such cases are as follows, as illustrated in the table below: 

(1) Make each noun possessive in a typical way using rules one to four when establishing that each possessor owns something independently (individual possession), and 

(2) only make the last noun possessive if many possessors own the same thing (joint possession).

Individual PossessionJoint Possession
Both Dan’s and Mike’s grades have improved. Peter and Linda’s kids are polite and respectful. 
It’s disappointing to see that Luke’s and Carl’s rooms are a mess.  Emma and John’s project turned out to be the best. 

Rule #6 – Business and Place Names 

When it comes to demonstrating possession with apostrophes, it’s worth noting that both business and place names don’t have to adhere to the preceding five principles.

With the exception of a few rare exceptions, place names in the United States and Australia, for example, are written without the apostrophe when possessive.

In the United Kingdom, this is not the case, where spellings like ‘St James’s Park’ or ‘King’s Lynn’ are popular.

Furthermore, while some firms (particularly those derived from family names like ‘Sainsbury’s’) used to use the apostrophe to show ownership, this has been less prevalent in recent years. Many companies, such as ‘Harrods’ and ‘Barclays’, no longer use the apostrophe.

Which Apostrophe Errors are Most Common?

With all these rules that you have to learn, mistakes are inevitable. The key is to use them as often as you can in writing until such a time that you have mastered them. 

That said, below are some of the most common mistakes when it comes to using the apostrophe punctuation mark. 

Mistake #1 – Pluralizing with Apostrophes 

Employing an apostrophe to denote the plural of a word, such as ‘three banana’s for $1’ instead of the proper ‘three bananas for $1’, is a common mistake made by both native and non-native English speakers. 

Because this mistake is so widespread among individuals who sell fresh produce, it has been dubbed ‘the greengrocer’s apostrophe’, and it should be avoided by academic English students.

Wrong UsageCorrect Usage
This paragraph has too many &’sThis paragraph has too many &s.
The iPhone 13’s are being sold out fast.  The iPhone 13s are being sold out fast.  

Mistake #2 – Overusing Apostrophes

Many English speakers misuse apostrophes in a variety of ways, similar to the greengrocer’s apostrophe, which is significantly overused when pluralizing. 

Personal pronouns (such as ‘its’), relative pronouns (such as ‘whose’), plural nouns (such as ‘bananas’), and writing the plural of initialisms and numbers all have a high rate of errors when employing this punctuation mark. 

CasesWrong UsageCorrect Usage
Personal Pronouns That is his’ car. The panel has made it’s decision. That is his car. The panel has made its decision.
Relative Pronouns Who’s book is this? The couple who’s daughter is sick is asking for help. Whose book is this? The couple whose daughter is sick is asking for help.
Plural NounsThe rain lasted for three hour’sFour apple’s cost $3. The rain lasted for three hoursFour apples cost $3.
Plural Initialisms A couple of NGO’s have donated money to the victims of the earthquake. The CEO’s decision to cancel the project was not well-received. A couple of NGOs have donated money to the victims of the earthquake. The CEOs decided to cancel the project.
Numbers I love the 1960’s.The 90’s have the best fashion. I love the 1960s. The 90s have the best fashion.

Mistake #3 – Using Apostrophes with Other Punctuation

The third error on this list happens when attempting to use the apostrophe with other punctuation marks such as full stops or quote marks, albeit it is less prevalent. 

The following three rules should assist you avoid making mistakes in this area:

  1. Apostrophes should always head to the top right and should never point to the top left.
  2. Any other punctuation mark should never be used to separate apostrophes from the word to which they have been linked (to signify omission or possession), unless;
  3. If the word already contains a punctuation mark, such as ‘U.S.A.’, the apostrophe and the suffix ‘-s’ should be added as usual: ‘U.S.A.’s’.

Mistake #4 – Recognizing Apostrophes from Other Languages

Lastly, you should recognize when a word is not of English origin and comprehend that the apostrophe can be employed in a variety of ways in different languages. 

For example, Scottish and Irish names such as ‘O’Grady’ or ‘M’Gregor’ may be spelled with an apostrophe. In contrast, German never employs an apostrophe to represent possession, and Spanish rarely uses this punctuation mark to show omission. 

In some languages, such as Hawaiian, the apostrophe is used in the same manner that any other letter of the alphabet is used: to denote a distinct sound. 

2. Colons and Semicolons

Although these punctuation marks seem the same, and others might think they have the same usage, they are completely different and have totally different purposes. 

Here are the rules for colons and semicolons and the most common mistakes that you have to watch out for when using these two punctuation marks. 

Which Punctuation Marks are Colons/Semicolons?

Unlike the comma (,) and full stop (.), the colon is a less commonly used punctuation mark that is frequently misused or mistakenly applied by English academic students. 

The colon (:) is a mark made up of one full stop (or period) layered on top of another full stop (or period). 

Here are the functions of the colon in academic writing: 

Colon FunctionsExamples
To connect two independent clauses The exam was so difficult: only a third of the class passed. 
To express time The class starts at exactly 7:30 AM. 
To highlight a single wordThe judges’ decision came down to one thing: aesthetic appeal. 
To introduce a definitionMy younger brother is interested in ornithology: the study of birds. 
To introduce a listPlease bring the things that you will need: pen, passport, and birth certificate. 
To introduce a long quotationMax: Are you on your way here? Dylan: Yes, I’ll be there in 5 minutes. 
To provide emphasis This is the truth: I do not enjoy my job.
To separate the title from the subtitle What are Punctuation Marks: A Student’s Guide
To use an appositive We should be grateful to the country that produces the most oil: the United Arab Emirates.

On the other hand, the semicolon is a punctuation mark resembling both a comma (,) and a full stop (.) and is used similarly to the colon, albeit not as selectively.

Below are the functions of semicolons in academic writing: 

Semicolon Functions Examples
To connect two independent clauses I wanted to join a club; I chose a theater club. 
To introduce a serial listThe band’s members are Ken, vocalist; Bill, guitarist; Samuel, drummer.  
To separate citations Davidson, 2010; Jung, 2012
To introduce conjunctive adverbs I was planning to stay until dinner; however, there was an emergency. 
To introduce connective phrases The Internet is useful; at the same time, if not used properly, could also be harmful. 

Which Colon Errors are Most Common?

Now that we have highlighted the functions of a colon, it is also important that you make yourself aware of the three typical mistakes that students should avoid when employing colons. 

Mistake #1 – Using a colon after a list 

Avoid using a colon after phrases that precede lists, such as ‘such as’, ‘particularly’, or ‘including’

When utilizing these listed phrases, keep in mind that colons usually combine two independent clauses, which is not the case. Use a comma instead.


Wrong UsageCorrect Usage
Many varieties of coniferous trees: such as fir pine and spruce, can be found in this forest.Many varieties of coniferous trees, such as fir pine and spruce, can be found in this forest.
I need to prepare a lot of documents: including a bank statement, a visa, and a passport. I need to prepare a lot of documents, including a bank statement, a visa, and a passport.

Mistake #2 – Using a colon between a verb and its object/complement.

You are not linking two independent sentences together if you use a colon between a verb and its object or complement. As a result, the following example is grammatically incorrect.


Wrong UsageCorrect Usage
The best gift I received was: the latest iPhone model. The best gift I received was the latest iPhone model.
It was too late: when I realized that I made a mistake. It was too late when I realized that I made a mistake.

Mistake #3 – Using a colon between a preposition and its object

A colon should never be used to separate a preposition from its object. 

Wrong UsageCorrect Usage
The award was given to: the group who presented last. The award was given to the group who presented last.
The movie was about: a young girl who traveled by herself to look for her family. The movie was about a young girl who traveled by herself to look for her family.

Which Semicolon Errors are Most Common?

Whether to use a colon or a semicolon is one of the most common dilemmas one may encounter in academic writing. Thus, this is also one of the reasons why mistakes in the use of both are committed. 

Here are the most common mistakes you have to avoid when using a semicolon. 

Mistake #1 – Using a semicolon and a coordinating conjunction 

Semicolons should never be employed with coordinating conjunctions like ‘and’, ‘but’, or ‘so’, except for building serial lists.

Wrong UsageCorrect Usage
I decided to engage in physical activity; so I enrolled in a karate class. I decided to engage in physical activity, so I enrolled in a karate class.
They planned on going to the park; but it rained. They planned on going to the park, but it rained.

Mistake #2 – Using a colon instead of a semicolon

Semicolons are used to connect two independent clauses that are related but not necessarily sequential in thought, according to the rule of thumb. 

Colons, however, are used to connect two or more consecutive statements, with the second sentence elaborating, explaining, paraphrasing, or summarizing the previous.

Use of a SemicolonUse of a Colon
She wanted to go on a holiday; she went to Europe. The purse was so expensive: it will cost three months of my salary. 
He wanted to learn another language; he chose French. She was hospitalized for a month: she lost tons of weight. 

Mistake #3 – Starting the first letter after a semicolon with a capital letter.

Finally, students tend to overextend the capitalization rule to semicolons because the first letter following a colon is occasionally capitalized. 

The initial letter after a semicolon, on the other hand, should never be capitalized unless it is the first-person pronoun ‘I’ or a proper noun such as ‘James’, ‘the Sun’, or ‘New York’.

Wrong UsageCorrect Usage
You need to stop eating a lot; You will need to go on a diet. You need to stop eating a lot; you will need to go on a diet.
Let’s try the new café; They serve the best pastries. Let’s try the new café; they serve the best pastries.

3. Full Stops

The full stop, often known as a period in American English, is one of the most basic and widely used punctuation symbols in the English language, accounting for over half of all punctuation marks ever recorded. 

Which Punctuation Mark is a Full Stop (Or Period)?

The full stop, together with the comma and colon, was invented by the Greek grammarian Aristophanes of Byzantium to aid the reader in better interpreting and to read aloud a document.

While Aristophanes’ early punctuation marks were a series of dots placed at various heights to inform the reader of how deep and long they should breathe. In contrast, reading, today’s descendent punctuation marks are guided by grammatical rules rather than simply how and when to pause – the full stop being one of the most important.

What are the Seven Unique Functions of Full Stops?

You will likely boost your chances of submitting a well-edited project that ensures clarity, accuracy, and academic achievement by knowing how and when to use full stops when writing. To help you achieve this, here are the seven most common functions of a full stop. 

Function #1 – Ending a declarative sentence 

Full stops serve two purposes. First, they can be used to indicate the end of a declarative statement. 

Declarative are sentences that give the reader an idea or assertion that can be objective or subjective, truthful or incorrect. 


  • Education is important. 
  • China has only one-time zone. 
  • Germany is a European country. 

Function #2 – Ending an imperative sentence 

Full stops can also be used to signal the end of an imperative sentence. Imperatives (unlike declaratives) can take a full stop or an exclamation mark (!), depending on the intensity of the statement and the writer’s inclination. 

Imperatives are demands, requests, instructions, or directives intended for a listener or reader. 


  • Speak softly. 
  • Turn off the lights. 
  • Leave your things outside. 

Function #3 – Ending an indirect question

Indirect questions are more like declarative statements that contain a questioning element such as ‘why’ or ‘how’, and do not usually follow the same syntax as direct inquiries (interrogatives), which are always concluded with a question mark. 


  • I really hope she knows how to drive. 
  • I am not sure if they will make it on time or not. 
  • My mom asked me why I came home late last night. 

Function #4 – Giving short answers

Full stops can also be used to provide short responses to yes/no and closed-ended inquiries, which can sometimes be as short as a single word. 


Question: Do you like chocolates? 

Answer: No. 

Question: What would you like to eat?  

Answer: Pizza, please. 

Function #5 – Abbreviating

When a speaker or writer shortens a word, phrase, or longer piece of text, it is called an abbreviation. 

While there are many different sorts of abbreviations, such as acronyms, contractions, and initialisms, it is crucial to remember that full stops are only required in some cases.

Full WordAbbreviation
United States of America U.S.A.

Function #6 – Computing

This punctuation mark can be used as a separator in DNS lookups (IP addresses), file names, and web addresses. Items like these would not open or function correctly if the full stop was not included in these cases. 

The IP address would be wrong, the document would be garbled, and the website address would be unavailable.


  • word.text

Function #7 – Computing

Full stops’ final purpose is to distinguish one number from another. 

This could be used to show a part or fraction of a whole number, the number of pennies in a dollar, or to tell the time (at least in British English).


  • 6.8 – six point eight
  • 14:30 – two-thirty in the afternoon
  • $8.99 – eight dollars and ninety-nine cents  

Which Rules of Full Stops are Important in Academia?

After discussing the uses and purposes of full stops, this section will focus on the six most crucial rules for proper and grammatical usage. 

Your writing will most likely become more correct, academic, and successful if you understand these six rules.

Rule #1 – Abbreviating 

Full stops can be employed in abbreviating a word or phrase to form an acronym, contraction, or initialism. 

However, for some students, deciding whether full stops should be used at the end of an abbreviation or between each letter can be a confusing aspect of punctuation. With this in mind, it is worth noting that some of the confusion stems from variances in how Americans and British people use full stops. 

Full ExpressionBritish English American English 
MissMs Ms. 
Joe BidenJ. BidenJ. Biden

Rule #2 – Bracketing

Brackets, often known as parentheses, are a type of punctuation that can be used to add extra thought to a statement or piece of writing. 

When employing such brackets in a grammatically correct manner, there are two guidelines to follow:

  1. Put the full stop outside the brackets and at the end of the entire sentence if a part of a sentence is encased in brackets. (1)
  2. If a whole sentence is enclosed in brackets, the full stop should be placed solely within those brackets. (2)


It can be difficult to learn how to punctuate (full stops) properly. (1)
It can be difficult to learn how to punctuate properly.(This is absolutely true in case of full stops.) (2)

Rule #3 – Citing

When it comes to reference, knowing how to cite properly is crucial, and full stops play a significant role here. 

The general rule is that 

(a) when a citation appears at the end of a sentence, the full stop must appear outside of (and after) that citation, and 

(b) when using endnotes and footnotes, the full stop should appear before the in-text numeral. 


Research has shown that internet usage during the pandemic has increased significantly (Tan, 2020). (a)
Research has shown that internet usage during the pandemic has increased significantly. 2

Rule #4 – Formatting

When it comes to full stops, one thing to remember is that there should not be a space between the last word in a sentence and a full stop. 

However, there is significant controversy about how much space a writer should leave between that full stop and the starting word of the following sentence. 

In such cases, three approaches can be used:

  1. Use a single space after the full stop (referred to as French spacing)
  2. Make use of two spaces (referred to as English spacing)
  3. Make use of a single widened space (or em space)

Rule #5 – Omitting

A writer may use three full stops in a row (…) to signify that words have been removed from a sentence or quotation. This is known as ellipsis. 

Although certain grammarians may disagree, the most widely accepted rule is that ellipses should never be used with full stops.


The teacher said… and handed out the questionnaires. 
… The teacher handed out the questionnaires.

Rule #6 – Quoting

If there is a quotation appearing at the end of a sentence in American English, the full stop should always be placed within the quotation marks, even if it is not necessary. 

However, in British English, a full stop should only be inserted within quote marks if the original quotation has a full stop in the same spot.


Quotation A: Creativity is contagious, pass it on

British English… superbly said, “Creativity is infectious, pass it on”. 
American English … superbly said, “Creativity is infectious, pass it on.”

Quotation B: It always seems impossible until it’s done.

British English… said before, “It always seems impossible, until it’s done.”
American English … said before, “It always seems impossible, until it’s done.”

Why Do Punctuation Marks Matter?

Learning how to punctuate an English sentence appropriately can be difficult for both native and non-native English speakers. There are a plethora of regulations governing how and when to employ apostrophes, brackets, commas, and colons. Still, these rules and applications differ from country to country and culture to culture. 

May it be while communicating in English informally, such as through text messages or emails to friends or researching to publish your writing, employing the correct punctuation marks can make or break your desired output. 

We hope that the information we have provided you in this article has answered your questions regarding punctuation marks and will eventually improve your academic and personal writing. 


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