The Period

The period, also known as the full stop in British English, marks the end of a sentence. Full stops are also used to express abbreviations, separate whole numbers from decimals and create ellipses (three periods that show some part of a sentence is missing).

Mr. Pirez was happy to be part of the new team.

I woke up at 6 a.m. on the dot.

They spent $76.37 in total.

Then he took the microphone, and we all know what happened next…

The Comma

Commas in English separate sentences into manageable parts. Here are the different ways to use commas.

Separating Nouns, Verbs and Adjectives

She studied math, geography, history and political science that semester.

I will take almonds, pine nuts, Brazil nuts and macadamias please.

He was so happy he jumped, yelled and danced all the way home.

Yesterday I tripped, dropped my bag and cut my hand falling down the stairs.

My sister is a smart, funny, ambitious and generous person.

I was not impressed by the rusty, dirty and generally beat up car he had for sale.

Separating Independent Clauses

We drove home, we did all of the laundry, after that we fell asleep.

I will go tomorrow, I might even get there early.

Separating Nonrestrictive Clauses

The party, which started at 7 p.m., was for her thirtieth birthday.

My grandma, who is Hungarian, loves to knit scarves for all of her grandchildren.

Tag Questions

He left work at noon, didn't he?

We’ve been on the waitlist for months, haven't we?


Wait, you don't have the tickets?

Hmm, this isn't exactly what I meant.

We're having ham for dinner, yes.

The Exclamation Mark

Exclamation marks are used to express surprise, astonishment or for emphasis.

Oh my goodness!

You can't be serious!

Turn the music down right now!

The question mark

The question mark shows an interrogative word, phrase or clause in English.

Where are you going later?

Marc likes chicken, doesn't he?

Is my backpack in the backseat of your car?

You do?

The colon

The colon is a punctuation mark that comes before a list or explanation.

I chose five subjects to study this term: psychology, sociology, biology, chemistry and physics.

There were only two rules: keep your room clean and help out with the cooking.

I had one thing on my mind: how to make as much money as possible that summer.

The semicolon

Semicolons separate long list items and connect independent clauses. They are stronger than commas but not as final as full stops.

I hate doing laundry; all of the separating annoys me.

Many world landmarks, the Matsushima islands in northeastern Japan; the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy; the Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia; Yosemite National Park in the United States and Victoria Falls between Zambia and Zimbabwe, were still on his bucket list.

The Quotation Mark

Quotation marks are used when writing something someone else has said exactly.

He told me to "start acting like an adult or leave"!

In my opinion the most beautiful thing shakespeare ever wrote was "This above all: to thine ownself be true. And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man."

I wasn't quite sure what she meant by "respectable clothes", so I wore this suit." %}

The Apostrophe

There are two uses for the apostrophe in English. Apostrophes stand in for missing letters in contractions:

He can't (cannot) come to work today, he's sick.

You shouldn't (should not) smoke in the hospital.

I'm (I am) running late!

The other use for apostrophes is to show possession:

Miranda's purse was stolen from her car.

The school's front gate is locked.

The bus' window had been smashed in the storm.

The women's bathroom line up was very long.

The Hyphen

The hyphen is used for compound words and word division in English.

The ghost-like figure stood at the window.

My eight-year-old sister came first in the race.

One-fifth of the team had forgotten their hockey sticks.

She kept her computer up-to-date with the latest security software.


Parentheses are used in a similar way to commas, they show extra information that isn't necessarily essential to the meaning of the sentence.

Her bedroom (which was the biggest) had a huge window overlooking the lake.

I didn’t go to the party (I would have seen him if I did).

One-fifth of the team had forgotten their hockey sticks.

The car (a 2012 Subaru Outback) was filthy from the drive through the field.