What is Punctuation?
Punctuation is a system of using certain pauses and stops to organise one’s writing.
Why Use Punctuation?
- Let’s eat grandma!
- Let’s eat, grandma!
Punctuation matters. When you read the first sentence above, it actually means that grandma is going to be eaten by someone. Thank God for the comma in the second sentence. It makes it clear that the writer only meant to call grandma to have their meal together. Indeed, punctuation saves lives!
This chapter has been divided into two parts—basic punctuation and advanced punctuation. In this section, we will look at some basic punctuation marks.
Some punctuation marks are more commonly used than others. For instance, you will notice a comma and a full stop appearing more often (like in this sentence) than the other punctuation marks. In this section, we will examine and understand the use of
- Full stop
- Question mark
- Exclamation mark
- Quotation marks
Full stop (.)
A full stop is primarily used to mark the end of a sentence.
- Kirti loved to play badminton with her friend on Sundays.
- Harshad wanted to score a 100% in his aptitude test.
Exception: A full stop is not used to end exclamatory sentences and questions.
- The full stop is also used after abbreviations, titles, names and degrees. However, rules regarding this usage vary with British and American English.
If the abbreviation consists of the first and the last letters of the word, do not put a full stop.
- British English: Dr, St, Mr, Mrs, Ms, MA, PhD
- American English: Dr., St., Mr., Mrs., Ms., M.A., Ph.D.
If the abbreviation is only the first part of the word, use a full stop.
Prof. Paul asked us to go to the laboratory in the afternoon.
The full stop is also used when writing time in the British English convention.
- British English: 11.23 a.m., 05.45 P.M.
- American English: 02:30 am, 10:15 PM
Never capitalize unless necessary. The rules below will help you decide when to use capitalisation.
Rule 1: Capitalise the first word of every sentence o Books and friends should be few and good. o Who’s going to bell the cat?
o Gosh! I thought I was the only one present in the room.
Rule 2: Capitalise the first word of direct speech o Partha asked his mother, “Are you going to bake my birthday cake?”
“Yes, I will bake a chocolate truffle cake for you. And some cookies too,” Mother replied.
Rule 3: Capitalise the first person pronoun ‘I’ o Uncle Tim requested the guests to be patient while I arranged for the music.
Rule 4: Capitalise the first word after a period o Ravi sat at the table waiting for Mrinal. Usually she would arrive before time. But today she was stuck in traffic at the highway because of a major road accident.
Rule 5: Capitalise proper nouns and proper adjectives o Vietnamese cuisine uses fresh ingredients and involves minimal use of dairy and oil. o William Shakespeare was one of the prominent writers during the English Renaissance.
Rule 6: Capitalise names of days and months o The store will remain closed on Monday and Thursday this week.
- The city witnessed its highest temperature in May last year.
Rule 7: Capitalise the names of institutions o Seema went to Delhi University to study English.
- Bahadur got his law degree from Government Law College in Mumbai.
Rule 8: Capitalise the names of historic buildings o The St Paul’s Cathedral in London was designed by an English architect.
- The White House, home to every US leader since the second president, is made of white-painted Aquia sandstone.
Rule 9: Capitalise the names of books, magazines and newspapers
- Tarush has subscribed to Reader’s Digest for a year. o The Kite Runner is an interesting book.
- Chintan worked for The Asian Age as an intern.
Rule 10: Capitalise important historical events o The Bangladesh Liberation War took place in 1971.
- The American Revolutionary War was fought between Great Britain and thirteen of its former American colonies.
Rule 11: Capitalise the first letter of nationalities, religions, races of people and languages o Gautam Buddha was born a Kshatriya but renounced worldly pleasures in search of enlightenment.
- As Deena lived in Poland for five years, she could speak Polish fluently.
- The Mongolian race includes people from China.
Rule 12: Capitalise the names of festivals o Holi is celebrated with great pomp and show in India.
- Karnataka is famous for its Dussera celebrations in Mysore.
Question mark (?)
A question mark is added at the end of a direct question statement. o Have you the extra set of keys?
- Are only 10 out of 25 people coming for the flower show?
- Ujjwal said, “Mother, I will study hard for the next semester. Will you help me revise Hindi?” o Have you heard about the neighbour’s dog that digs up the flower beds?
Do not use a question mark for indirect questions.
- Father thought if he could get a part time job to earn more money.
- My history teacher wants to know if there is a performing arts centre in the city.
Exclamation mark (!)
Sentences which express strong outbursts of feelings and emotions end with an exclamation mark.
- That is really horrible!
- Sigh! I miss my childhood days!
- What a pretty frock!
Quotation marks (“ ”) (‘ ’)
Use double quotation marks (“ ”) to
- Enclose direct speech
“I cannot see a thing in this dimly lit dungeon,” Merida told Grizz.
“Grishma,” Mother called out from the kitchen, “Dinner is served on the table!”
Use single quotation marks (‘ ’) to
- Insert quotations within quotations
Rashmi said, “My toddler son asked me, ‘Mummy, do you love me more than you love didi?’”
- Enclose titles of films, books etc. when not using italics The chapter ‘Radiation Therapy’ was written by Prof. Samuel.
Do you know who wrote ‘The Great Gatsby’?
A comma is used within a sentence to introduce a pause.
Use a comma to
Separate words and word groups in a series o We bought bags, pouches, caps and bottles for the birthday party.
- The editor-in-chief, the sub-editor and the special correspondent were felicitated by the government.
Separate words, phrases, clauses and pairs of words in a sentence o Romeo and Juliet, Antony and Cleopatra, Venus and Adonis, and Macbeth were all written by Shakespeare.
- The crying baby broke his toy, threw his bottle on the floor and smeared his face with porridge.
- Chintan adores his pet hedgehog, likes his goldfish, pampers his rabbits and loves his dog.
Separate the words like yes or no from the rest of the sentence o Yes, you can also use this product outdoors.
- No, this bowl is not microwavable.
Separate transitional words and phrases o The door was locked from outside. However, Rina saw a man walking past the street and called him for help.
- Gradually, the storm calmed down and flights resumed their schedules.
Separate the date and the year o Narendra Modi was born on September 17, 1950.
Separate question tags o We all like to have that one friend who will do anything for us, don’t we?
- Mother isn’t at home, is she?
The full stop, capitalisation, question mark, exclamation mark, quotation marks and comma are basic punctuation marks used in English. Punctuation marks are used in written text to separate sentences and mark pauses to make the content clearer in terms of readability.
What is Punctuation?
Punctuation plays an important role in organising your written content. In the chapter on basic punctuation, you studied about using the full stop, the exclamation mark, the question mark, the comma, quotation marks and capitalisation. In this chapter, we will study and understand the use of Brackets
Brackets ( ) [ ]
Round brackets ( ) are used to include non-essential information in a sentence. They are also called parentheses. o The Etruscan shrew (1.2 to 2.7g) is considered the world’s smallest mammal.
Round brackets are also used to enclose comments of the writer. o The teacher was being strict (unlike her usual self) even with the most obedient student in the class.
Square brackets [ ] are used for clarification and addition of information. o They eventually decided to ask them [the guests] about the stolen diamond.
o She [Helen Keller] was the first deaf–blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree.
A semicolon marks a stronger pause than a comma but is weaker than a full stop.
A semicolon is used
Between independent clauses where coordinating conjunctions are omitted o The stepmother allowed her children to go to the ball; Milinda was asked to stay at home and complete the chores.
Between independent clauses set off by transitional elements o Militants continue to wreak havoc in the lives of civilians in J&K; consequently, the Indian Army has decided to take extreme steps to curb the violence.
In lists with internal commas o The new hotel will have a rooftop Jacuzzi; a Thai spa, an Ayurveda centre and a reflexology centre in the east wing; recreational and kids play area in the southern wing; library and meditation centres in the west wing; and a virtual gaming zone in the north wing.
In combination with a comma in elliptical constructions o Last November, Chitra was wondering if her two-year old daughter was ever going to talk; today, the little girl is a terror and doesn’t keep quiet even for a minute.
o Some people brought food; others, money; yet others, merely loitered around in search of gossip.
A colon is used
To introduce a list after an independent clause o The institute offers three courses: Vedic Mathematics, Vocabulary Building and Improving Communication Skills.
Do not use a colon when the listed items are incorporated into a simple sentence.
- Correct: The institute offers courses in Vedic Mathematics, Vocabulary Building and Improving Communication Skills. o Incorrect: The institute offers courses in: Vedic Mathematics, Vocabulary Building and Improving Communication Skills.
Between independent clauses when the second explains or illustrates the first o Priti has no time to buy a new dress for the wedding: she had to catch a flight in two hours.
- All three of her grandchildren are involved in philanthropy: Bernard heads an NGO, Jasmine donates 20% of her annual income to UNICEF and William teaches blind children for free.
To introduce a quotation after an independent clause o My sister’s reaction after I told her that I would leave for London for higher studies: “Fare thee well, Sir!”
An apostrophe is used
To show possession o Omar’s idea was stolen by the rival team and presented at the conference.
- The twins’ health was envied by every visitor so much so that the parents feared they would fall ill.
To show time period o The committee asked for a week’s time to submit their report.
To show omission in contractions o It’s a beautiful day.
- It is a beautiful day.
- They’d spend days at the farm working with Uncle Henry and helping him take care of the farm animals. o They would spend days at the farm working with Uncle Henry and helping him take care of the farm animals.
- There’s a sale on new books in the store in the next building. o There is a sale on new books in the store in the next building.
The word ‘it’s’ doesn’t refer to a possessive form. The possessive form is ‘its’ and it doesn’t take an apostrophe.
- The car wasn’t looking bright red anymore. Its colour had started to fade in the sunlight.
- This is my car. It’s an SUV. (it’s = it is)