Punctuation – A Brief Guide

Published on: 28/01/2019 By
Last Modified on: 08/11/2019

Punctuation is an essential part of writing in English as in any language because without it you can’t understand when one idea finishes and another begins can you see what I mean.

There are nine main forms of punctuation that we use frequently when we write. What are they, and how are they used in English? Let’s see!



The Full stop .

A full stop (or ‘period’) is a dot that comes at the end of every sentence. It means that a particular idea the speaker/writer was describing is concluded. After a full stop, we always begin a new sentence with a capital letter (A, B, C…). A sentence can include one, two or three phrases but usually isn’t longer than 3 lines.

Comma ,

Within a sentence, you can separate ideas and phrases with a comma. By adding a comma you let the speaker take a short pause to breathe, but the sentence still hasn’t finished. In a sentence, you can use two or three commas. They’re especially common when I want to add extra but non essential information. For example,

The comma, which is a Greek word, helps us separate ideas and clauses in a sentence.

We also use commas to separate words in a list. For example,

The main forms of punctuation in English are full stops, commas, question marks, exclamation marks, speech marks, colons, and brackets.

Question mark ?

A question mark is a symbol that indicates that a sentence is in the interrogative form. For example,

Where are you from?

What do you do?

Exclamation mark !

We use an exclamation mark at the end of a sentence that is an order, or an excited or angry exclamation. For example,

Come here!

That’s great news!

Give that back to me!

Exclamation marks are used very frequently in informal emails and text messages nowadays. But it’s best not to use them in formal emails.

Speech marks “ ”

We use speech marks at the beginning and end of a phrase or sentence that is a quote of what someone said. For example,

Then the teacher said, “Let’s practice using this form by playing a game.”


We use apostrophes in two main situations in English. You can see them in:

  1. contractions, e.g. don’t
  2. saxon genitive, e.g. Sam’s bag

Colon :

We use colons when we want to give examples or lists or explanations. For example,

The students study a wide variety of subjects at this school: maths, science, geography, history, IT, languages, sociology, and sports.

Semicolon ;

A semicolon is used to connect two independent ideas in a sentence. For example,

Some people like studying on their own because they can concentrate better; other people, on the contrary, like studying with friends.

Brackets (..)

We use brackets to add extra but unessential information, like an example of what we’re saying. For example,

In my opinion, outdoor sports (like football or cycling) are more fun than indoor sports.

Now you’ve seen the most important forms of punctuation, you’re even more prepared to write in English. Why not practice now by writing a comment or trying the quiz on this post.

Mary Milne avatar

Mary Milne

Author of this post

Mary Milne has worked for Wall Street English for 20 years. After studying at the University of Bristol and subsequently doing a CELTA course, she began her career in teaching. Over the years she has gained a wealth of knowledge and experience in ESL and has worked as an Online Community Manager, and author for Wall Street English International and Pearson, writing informative educational content. She dedicates most of her free time to music, playing in a band and singing in a choir.

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