Punctuation of English

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Punctuation marks
apostrophe   '
brackets [ ]  ( )  { }  ⟨ ⟩
colon :
comma ,  ،  
dash   –  —  ―
ellipsis   ...  . . .
exclamation mark !
full stop, period .
hyphen-minus -
question mark ?
quotation marks ‘ ’  “ ”  ' '  " "
semicolon ;
slash, stroke, solidus /  
Word dividers
interpunct ·
General typography
ampersand &
asterisk *
at sign @
backslash \
caret ^
dagger † ‡
degree °
ditto mark
inverted exclamation mark ¡
inverted question mark ¿
number sign, pound, hash, octothorpe #
numero sign
obelus ÷
ordinal indicator º ª
percent, per mil % ‰
plus and minus + −
basis point
section sign §
tilde ~
underscore, understrike _
vertical bar, pipe, broken bar |    ¦
Intellectual property
copyright ©
sound-recording copyright
registered trademark ®
service mark
Uncommon typography
index, fist
irony punctuation
reference mark
In other scripts

Punctuation in the English language is guided by a series of grammar-related rules which differ from other languages such as French.[1]

National variants[edit]

There are two major styles of punctuation in English: American or "traditional punctuation";[citation needed] and British or "logical punctuation."[citation needed] These two styles differ mainly in the way in which they handle quotation marks.[citation needed]

Usage of different punctuation marks or symbols[edit]


The apostrophe ( ’ ' ) is used to mark possession as in "John's book", and to mark letters omitted in contractions, such as you're for you are.


Brackets ( [ ], ( ), { }, ⟨ ⟩ ) are used for parenthesis, explanation or comment: such as "John Smith (the elder, not his son)..."

Colon and semicolon[edit]

Main article: Colon (punctuation)

The colon ( : ) is used to explain or start an enumeration. The semicolon ( ; ) is often used to break up listings with commas: "She saw three men: Jamie, who came from New Zealand; John, the milkman's son; and George, a gaunt kind of man."


The comma ( , ، 、 ) is used to disambiguate the meaning of sentences. For example, "Man, without her cell phone, is nothing" (emphasizing the importance of cell phone) and "Man: without it, is nothing" (emphasizing the importance of men) have greatly different meanings, as do "eats shoots and leaves" (to mean "consumes plant growths") and "eats, shoots and leaves" (to mean "eats firstly, fires a weapon secondly, and leaves the scene thirdly").[2]

Dash and hyphen[edit]

The dash ( ‒, –, —, ― ) hyphen ( ‐ ) and hyphen-minus ( - )


An ellipsis ( …, ..., . . . ) is used to mark omitted text.

Exclamation mark[edit]

The exclamation mark ( ! ) is used to mark an exclamation.

Full stop (British), or Period (American)[edit]

The full stop or period ( . ) is firstly used to mark the end of a sentence. It is also use to mark abbreviation of names as initials.[3]

Dwight D. Eisenhower's home in Gettysburg, Pa., was not very far from Washington, D.C.


Guillemets ( « » ), sometimes called French quotation marks, are relatively uncommon in English, but are sometimes used as a form of quotation mark.

Question marks[edit]

The question mark ( ? ) is used to mark the end of a sentence which is a question.

Quotation marks[edit]

Quotation marks ( ‘ ’, “ ”, ' ', " " ) are used to mark quotation.


The slash or stroke or solidus ( /, ⁄ ) is often used to indicate alternatives, such as "his/her", or two equivalent meanings or spellings, such as ""grey/gray".


  1. ^ Translation, Linguistics, Culture: A French - English Handbook -2005 p205 "Partridge (1999) is a good book-length guide to punctuation in English. Grevisse (1986) has a long section on French punctuation. Demanuelli (1987) is a book-length treatment of punctuation differences between French and English."
  2. ^ Truss, Lynne (2003). Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. Profile Books. ISBN 1-86197-612-7.
  3. ^ Irwin Feigenbaum The Grammar Handbook 1985 p303 "... period after initials in a name and after other abbreviations. (103) Dwight D. Eisenhower's home in Gettysburg, Pa., was not very far from Washington, D.C. In a direct quotation, 3 periods are used to show that a word or words have been