Punctuation Marks in English

Rules and Examples

Punctuation marks are an important part of English grammar and writing.

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What are punctuation marks?

Punctuation Marks in English A punctuation mark is a mark (sign) used in writing to divide texts into phrases and sentences.

Some common punctuation marks are:

Some additional punctuation marks are:

English punctuation rules

Click on the individual punctuation marks for more information and examples.

To end a sentence

To separate phrases or items

To begin a list

To quote or indicate a title

To indicate extra information

To show alternatives

Read also

Colon vs Semicolon

Comma Splices

Illustrated Worksheet on Punctuation Marks in English

Why is punctuation important?

When we speak, we can pause or emphasize certain words and phrases to help people understand what we are saying.

In our writing, we use punctuation to show pauses and emphasis. Punctuation marks help the reader understand what we mean.

A punctuation mark is a mark, or sign, used in writing to divide texts into phrases and sentences and make the meaning clear.

In this lesson, we will look at some common punctuation marks and mistakes. You will see examples of what happens if you omit or misuse some common punctuation marks.

End Punctuation

End Punctuation is the most common punctuation in the English language. You must use end punctuation at the end of every sentence to avoid confusion.

The three most common ways to end a sentence are
End punctuation tells the reader where each sentence ends. It also helps the reader understand the writer's emotions about the subject. For example, an exclamation mark ( ! ) tells the reader that I am excited or yelling.

Here is a paragraph without end punctuation:

Do you like to sing My mom and I sing in a choir that meets every Tuesday Last week we sang Christmas carols at a nursing home The residents of the nursing home enjoyed our visit It was fun Would you like to join us next Tuesday

You can see that it is very difficult to read and make sense of the paragraph. Every sentence runs straight into the next sentence.

Here is the same paragraph with end punctuation:

Do you like to sing? My mom and I sing in a choir that meets every Tuesday. Last week, we sang Christmas carols at a nursing home. The residents of the nursing home enjoyed our visit! It was fun! Would you like to join us next Tuesday?

Now, you can see questions, statements, and exclamations in the paragraph. You can see that the writer is excited about singing and enjoyed singing for the residents of the nursing home. The writer also asks if you like singing and would like to join their choir.


Incorrect uses of end punctuation

Using the wrong end punctuation can cause confusion for the reader.

Consider these three sentences:

1. Richard wants to marry Rose.
2. Richard wants to marry Rose!
3. Richard wants to marry Rose?

The words of each sentence are the same, but the end punctuation greatly changes the meaning:

1. Richard wants to marry Rose.

By using a period, the writer is simply stating a fact. The writer does not show any feelings about the situation.

man proposing to girlfriend2. Richard wants to marry Rose!

With an exclamation mark, the writer shows emotion about the situation. The writer is probably excited.

3. Richard wants to marry Rose?

By using a question mark, the writer has turned the sentence into a question. The writer seems surprised and is asking for clarification.


Commas are another very important type of punctuation. Commas tell the reader where to pause. Commas also separate phrases, ideas, and items in a list. Commas help avoid confusion.

A) Using commas in lists:

Here is a list without commas:

Sally likes to eat chocolate hot dogs and broccoli.

hot dog
Without commas, it sounds like Sally likes to eat hot dogs and broccoli covered in chocolate!


Here is the same list with commas:

Sally likes to eat chocolate, hot dogs, and broccoli.

Now, we see that Sally actually likes three foods:

1. chocolate
2. hot dogs
3. broccoli

B) Commas for phrasing

Here is another funny example:

hungry man

1. It is time to eat David!

2. It is time to eat, David!

1. In the first sentence, it sounds like we are going to eat David for lunch! 

2. The comma in the second sentence shows the writer that we are actually informing David that it is time to eat.   

Quotation marks

Quotation marks are another common punctuation mark in the English language. Quotation marks are used with commas to inform the reader that someone is talking or being quoted.


"Punctuation is important," my teacher said. "Without punctuation marks, your writing would be very confusing."

Without quotation marks and commas, it would be difficult to understand what the character is saying.

Punctuation is important my teacher said without punctuation marks your writing would be very confusing

Quotation marks are also very important when you are quoting words someone has already said.


Maya Angelo said, "If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude."

Maya Angelo is a famous author and poet. When I am quoting her, I show her exact words by enclosing them in quotation marks. By using quotation marks, I am giving her credit for her words.


Apostrophes are another commonly misused form of punctuation. Apostrophes are used to show ownership and missing letters in contractions.

Misplaced apostrophes can cause confusion for readers.


it's = it is
its = ownership

  • Correct:
The dog sleeps in its house.

The house belongs to the dog.
  • Incorrect:
The dog sleeps in it's house.

This does not make sense because we would not say, "The dog sleeps in it is house."
dog in doghouse


boy's = ownership
boys = more than one boy

  • Correct:

    The boy's room is painted blue.

    The blue room belongs to the boy.

  • Incorrect:

    The boys room is painted blue.

    In this example, we do not know if the room belongs to one boy (boy's) or more than one boy (boys').

  • Correct:

    The boys are sleeping in the tent.

    There is more than one boy sleeping in the tent.

  • Incorrect:

    The boy's are sleeping in the tent.

    The apostrophe is not needed in this sentence because we are not showing ownership.
boys camping

A final note about punctuation

These were just a few examples of the importance of using punctuation in our writing.

It is important to use punctuation correctly to help the reader understand our writing.

Without punctuation, our writing would be a confusing mess!

These were examples of the importance of punctuation. Now that you know them, it is time to practice! Read and do exercises.

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