10 Most common punctuation marks that are commonly used in English grammar. They are the period, question mark, exclamation point, comma, semicolon, colon, dash, hyphen, parentheses, brackets, braces, apostrophe, quotation marks, and ellipsis. Following their correct usage will make your writing easier to read and more appealing.
Three of the fourteen punctuation marks are appropriate for use as sentence endings. They are the period, question mark, and exclamation point.
The period (.) is placed at the end of declarative sentences, statements thought to be complete and after many abbreviations.
As a sentence ender: Jane and Jack went to the market.
After an abbreviation: Her son, John Jones Jr., was born on Dec. 6, 2008.
Use a question mark (?) to indicate a direct question when placed at the end of a sentence.
When did Jane leave for the market?
The exclamation point (!) is used when a person wants to express a sudden outcry or add emphasis.
Within dialogue: “Holy cow!” screamed Jane.
To emphasize a point: My mother-in-law’s rants make me furious!
Comma, Semicolon, and Colon
The comma, semicolon, and colon are often misused because they all can indicate a pause in a series.
The comma is used to show a separation of ideas or elements within the structure of a sentence. Additionally, it is used in numbers, dates, and letter writing after the salutation and closing.
Direct address: Thanks for all your help, John.
Separation of two complete sentences: We went to the movies, and then we went out to lunch.
Separating lists or elements within sentences: Suzi wanted the black, green, and blue dress.
Whether to add a final comma before the conjunction in a list is a matter of debate. This final comma, known as an Oxford or serial comma, is useful in a complex series of elements or phrases but is often considered unnecessary in a simple series such as in the example above. It usually comes down to a style choice by the writer.
The semicolon (;) is used to connect independent clauses. It shows a closer relationship between the clauses than a period would show.
John was hurt; he knew she only said it to upset him.
A colon (:) has three main uses. The first is after a word introducing a quotation, an explanation, an example, or a series.
He was planning to study four subjects: politics, philosophy, sociology, and economics.
The second is between independent clauses when the second explains the first, similar to a semicolon:
I didn’t have time to get changed: I was already late.
The third use of a colon is for emphasis:
There was one thing she loved more than any other: her dog.
A colon also has non-grammatical uses in time, ratio, business correspondence and references.