marks are signals to your readers. In speaking, we
can pause, stop, or change our tone of voice. In writing,
we use the following marks of punctuation to emphasize
and clarify what we mean.
the beginning of a sentence
a person talks about himself (I)
geographical names; places, cities, countries,
islands, sea, mountains, lakes, roads
other names; nationalities, races, people, titles,
religions, months, days
full stop is used:
the end of a sentence
an abbreviation. E.g. Prof. Wilson
an abbreviation consisting of single capitals. E.g.
M.P. = Member of Parliament. In British English
the full stop is often omitted here.
full stop is not used:
an abbreviation ending in the same letter as the
full form. E.g. Mr = Mister
abbreviations of well-known institutions. E.g. UNESCO,
comma is used:
sum up items in a list. E.g. the Sales Manager,
the Secretary and I.
divide off a non-restrictive (= unnecessary) clause
from the main sentence; the part between commas
can be left out without changing the essence of
the sentence. E.g. The goods, which were expensive,
separate an introductory word or phrase from the
sentence. E.g. In fact, the Germans did not even
separate sentence adverbs from the sentence. E.g.
The facility manager, however, did not agree
with the proposal.
colon is used:
a long list of items. E.g. The case contains
the following materials: cotton, wool, nylon and
indicate that the writer wants to illustrate something
or explain in more detail. E.g. The countries
are quite different: China has a controlled economy
while Japan has a free market economy
introduce a direct quotation. E.g. The General
Manager exclaimed: 'I certainly don't agree on this
semicolon is used:
separate two clauses that are considered closely
connected. The semicolon expresses a relation that
is too weak for a comma but too strong for a full
stop. E.g. Only the Special Zones are ready for
slick retail operations; the rest of the country
will not be ready until the next century.
dash is used:
of brackets to add material to a sentence. E.g.
He entered the council chamber - and his visit
was totally unexpected - to announce the senators
that he had taken control.
informal English to separate a phrase or word from
the main sentence. In formal English it is better
to use commas. E.g. Alexander - our Personnel
Manager - introduced the idea.
informal English to add an after-thought or a comment.
In formal English it is better to use brackets.
E.g. The sky was very clear and the atmosphere
strangely calm - never a good sign at this time
/ BRACKETS (())
a date is added. E.g. John Smith (1895-1960)
was the founder of the enterprise.
indicate references. E.g. World population (see
chart on page 149) will have increased to 11.6 billion
informal English to add extra information or an
after-thought which is not essential. E.g. Ireland
(so we were told) wanted to investigate the possibilities
of nuclear energy.
sentences never appear in brackets. When the closing
bracket is at the end of the sentence, the full stop
is outside the bracket.
question mark is used:
the end of a direct question.
brackets to express doubt. (The company was established
in 1845 (?) and has exported whisky ever since.)
exclamation mark is used:
strong exclamations or commands. E.g. Don't forget
to call Mr Jones!
emotional remarks (anger, fear, joy, amazement,
etc). E.g. What a surprise!
apostrophe is used:
indicate that letters or numbers have been left
out. Avoid it in formal English. E.g. She's worked
there since '97.
indicate the possessive. E.g. Joanna's secretary
form the plural of letters. E.g. "Omitted" is
spelled with two t's.
hyphen is used:
certain prefixes. E.g. ex-husband, self-reliant,
mid-October; especially if the prefix ends with
a vowel. E.g. co-ordinator, re-establish, pre-exist.
form a word from two or more words (a compounds).
Note that not all compound are spelled with a hyphen.
E.g. radio-telescope, telegraph-line, brother-in-law
MARKS (") AND (')
marks are used:
indicate direct speech. E.g. He shouted,"You're
indicate that somebody's exact words are quoted.
E.g. Curtis Bohlen announced that "new and additional
financial resources would be needed."
both cases the quotation marks should enclose all
words and punctuation of the quoted expression. Both
double and single quotation marks may be used; although
the British usually prefer single and Americans usually
prefer double quotation marks.