Punctuation In Written English EXPLAINED!

Following on from our previous blog post, we concluded that punctuation is imperative in written English as it adds sense, clarity and stress to your text. One embeds full-stops, commas, question marks, exclamation points, hyphens, semi-colons, brackets and so much more into their writing! With so many elements falling under the “Punctuation” umbrella, how do you actually incorporate each punctuation mark into your writing correctly to ensure that your text elicits the aforementioned sense, clarity and stress? Well, let’s dive in and unravel the uses of the most frequently used punctuation marks in written English.  

#1 Full stop

In simple terms, a full stop (or period in US English) is used to indicate the end of a sentence.

You use it to mark the end of a sentence which is neither a question nor an exclamation.

Examples: Paris is the capital of France. I was born in the United Kingdom. J.K. Rowling is the author of Harry Potter. 

It can also indicate an abbreviation. For example, the titles Dr, Mr, Ms, and MA or PhD require a full stop, however this is primarily the case only in American English.  

#2 Question mark

A question mark (or interrogation mark) is placed at the end of a sentence to indicate direct questions, rhetorical questions as well as statements construed as questions.

Examples. What time is it? Who says it can’t be done? You’ve actually passed your driving test? 

Take caution and ensure that you do not use a question mark with indirect questions. For such cases, you end the sentence with a full stop. 

#3 Comma

A comma is used to join two independent clauses together, but only when there is a conjunction (I.e., but, so, although etc.). If there is no conjunction, then you can either use a semi-colon or a full stop. A comma can also be used to separate the introductory phrase from the rest of the sentence or when you are listing items.

Examples: My friend loves pizza, but he enjoys chips too. We didn’t have any bread, so I went to the supermarket. Driving through rain, wind, and snow is terrifying. Before eating, we say a prayer.  

In other words, a comma is a useful and multifunctional element as it not only allows the text to flow better, but it also provides a brief break for the reader. 

#4 Exclamation mark

An exclamation mark is used at the end of a sentence which expresses a strong feeling or emotion, for instance, anger, urgency or surprise.

Examples: Help! Don’t touch that! That’s great news!  

Although exclamation marks are pretty standard in novels and to represent ordinary speech, they are usually out of place in more formal pieces of writing. If you use them frequently, they will convey your writing as childish and erratic. 

For beginner to elementary learners, the four aforementioned punctuation elements are those which you will frequently use in your everyday writing. Other features such as quotation marks, apostrophes, hyphens, semi-colons, colons and brackets, for instance, are more likely to be used by intermediate and advanced users of the language or professionals.  

So, for the next time that you have been tasked with writing a piece in English, don’t forget to incorporate the essential punctuation marks to ensure that your writing flows like a river. 

Do you feel confident using punctuation when writing in English? Let us know your thoughts!