Punctuation marks are the traffic signals of language: they tell us to slow down, notice this, take a detour and stop. In other words, it’s about making what you write as easy as possible for your reader to understand.
Speaking is a whole lot easier than writing. When we speak, we can elaborate on what we’re saying by raising our voice, slowing down, stressing words, pausing, and repeating what we’ve just said. However, it’s not the same as writing. In writing we only have words and punctuation. That’s it. Punctuation is voice raising, or pausing. Which means a good use of punctuation is vital if you want to get your message across loud and clear.
Remember this example?
A professor wrote this sentence on the blackboard and asked the class to punctuate it.
Woman without her man is nothing.
The guys punctuated it like this:
Woman, without her man, is nothing.
The girls like this:
Woman: Without her, man is nothing.
— I absolutely agree with what the girls wrote. 😀
Here are some basic punctuations you need to know and start to use in your sentence:
1. Period ( . )
Use a period (also known as the full stop in British English) to finish a sentence.
– I went to the beach yesterday.
– I’m going to the beach with some friends.
You can use three dots (…) in your sentence to show ellipsis. This indicates that only part of the sentence or text has been quoted or that it is being left up to the reader to complete the thought.
He is always late, but you know how I feel about that…
2. Comma ( , )
Use a comma to separate phrases, words, or clauses in a list.
– For dinner I had soup, fish, chicken, dessert, and coffee.
– I miss you, but I hate you.
3. Exclamation mark ( ! )
Use an exclamation mark to show surprise, anger, or emphasis a comment.
– Get out!
– That’s unbelieveable!
4. Question mark ( ? )
Use the question mark at the end of all direct questions.
– What’s your name?
– What was that?
5. Aposthrope ( ‘ )
Use an aposthrope to show possession and to contract two words together.
– Linda’s book.
– I’d (I had) better go now.
6. Colon ( : )
Use a colon to elaborate whatever was previously stated.
She only has one fault: an enormous ego.
7. Semicolon ( ; )
Semicolons can be used to join phrases and sentences that are thematically linked without having to use a conjunction.
– I like your sister; she’s a good friend.
– I’m all out of eggs; however, I can still make us a nice breakfast.
8. Quotation marks
Use quotation marks to cite something someone said exactly.
– He told me, “Don’t forget to lock the door.”
– I’m going to tthe beach”, she said.