Basic Rules

  • Every sentence in English begins with a capital letter and ends with a punctuation mark.

  • Full stops (.) are used to mark the end of a sentence.

  • The use of commas (,) in proper places helps to clarify the meaning of sentences.

  • Question marks (?) are used to signal a direct question.

  • Exclamation marks (!) are used to show a stronger emotion or to emphasise a point.

Common Punctuation Marks and Their Usage

  • Colons (:) are used to separate two independent clauses when the second explains or expands upon the first.

  • Semicolons (;) are used to connect two closely related but separate thoughts.

  • Use apostrophes () to indicate possession and to mark contractions.

  • Quotation marks (” “) are used when citing direct speech, titles or phrases.

  • Ellipses () are used to indicate omission of words.

  • Hyphens and Dashes are used to connect words or parts of words. Hyphens (-) are shorter, while dashes () are longer.

Using Punctuation Marks Correctly

  • Avoid using multiple punctuation marks consecutively, except where appropriate for maintaining the sanctity of the language (e.g., ‘!?’)

  • Ensure consistent use of British-style single or double quotation marks in direct speech or to quote.

  • Use proper punctuation in parentheses. If a complete sentence is in parentheses, the final punctuation belongs inside the closing parenthesis.

Proofreading for Punctuation

  • Regular proofreading helps to identify and rectify punctuation errors.

  • Reading aloud helps to spot missing punctuation marks or awkwardly placed ones. Indicate pauses when you come across a comma, semi-colon, or full stop.

  • Use grammar check tools to identify punctuation errors.

Remember, punctuating your text correctly will always improve the clarity and fluency of your writing for the reader. So do not give punctuation afterthought status: it deserves as much consideration as your words themselves.