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How to use Punctuation and Quotation marks

Importance of Punctuation Marks 

In all the languages there are punctuation marks that are used to help in explaining the real meaning of the writer and aids in better understanding of the written text. Without the punctuation marks, the reader stays confused, and the writer has to stay simple and soft. The punctuation marks are used to display the expressions, highlight the important parts within the text, quoting someone. To give the readers a complete view of the picture, the writer's biggest tools are the punctuation marks. Now coming towards the English language, in English grammar, the most commonly used punctuation marks are 14 in number, named question marks, comma, semicolon, colon dash, etc. We will discuss each in this article and discuss when to use them and when to not.

Types of Punctuations

Let us now discuss the types and examples to get a better understanding of their use and advantages;

Sentence Endings

Among the fourteen punctuation marks, there are three that can be used as the ending of the sentence depending on the type of a sentence. These three types are a question mark, exclamation point, and the period.


A “period (.)” is used at the end of a sentence that is declarative, statements that are considered complete and expected to have full meaning. The period is also used at the end of abbreviations.

  • Ending of the sentence: John and Jackson went to the mall. 
  • With an abbreviation: His son, Jack Jr. joined the office on Feb. 7, 2009.

Question Marks

Whenever you want to show a directly asked question, you have to place a “question mark (?)”

  • When did David join the school?

Exclamation point 

Whenever you want to emphasize, or you want to express any sudden outcry, you use an “exclamatory point (!)”.
Within a dialogue: Holy Cow! Jane shouted.
Emphasizing a point: “My mother’s rants make me furious!”

Pause in a series 

The pause in a series within a text is expressed by using a comma, semicolon, and a colon. These punctuations are often misused because of their same field of usage.


When the writer wants to show a separation of ideas and elements in between the structures of a sentence or a clause, he uses a comma. Also, the comma is used in the expression of dates, numbers, and writing of letters after the closing and salutation.
Directly addressing: Thanks for your help, Jack.

  • Separation of two sentences that are complete: “They went to movies, and then for lunch.”
  • Separation of a list of elements in between sentences: “John wants to buy the blue, yellow, and orange shirt”.

It’s a discussable topic to decide whether to add a final comma before the conjunction within a list or not. This final comma is called the Oxford or serial comma, mostly used in the complex series of features or phrases. It is mostly considered not important in the series of simple elements, such as the example discussed above. Eventually, it has come down to the personal choice of the style of the writer.


To connect the independent clause, we use the semicolons (;) the closer link between the clauses is shown by the semicolon than the period.

  • “Donald was sad; he knew she meant every word she said”.


There are three main uses of a colon.
The first one is after the introduction of a quotation, an example or an explanation by a word:

  • John was planning to study two courses: Geography and Geology. 

The second use is in between the independent clauses in the case when the second clause is explaining the first one:

  • I don’t have time to get dressed: I am already late.
  • A third use is for emphasizing any point:
  • There is one thing I love more than any other: my father.

There are some non-grammatical uses of the colon, as well as the uses in time, references, business correspondence.

Separating words

There are two other types of punctuation marks commonly known as dash and hyphen. Because of their similar appearance, they are often confused with each other, but they have completely different usage.


To separate two different words in a sentence, we use a dash. Dashes are of two types: em dash and en dash.

  • En dash: twice as long as the hyphen, the symbol of the en dash is (--) which is used in the writing or printing to point the range, differentiation, or connections, for example, 1700—1900 or Tokyo—Japan trains.
  • Em dash: The em dash is lengthier than the en dash, it is used instead of a comma, brackets (parenthesis), or colon to increase the readability or to emphasize the conclusion of the sentence. For example, he gave her his answer --- No!


The hyphen is used to join two or more words together by making them a compound term, and space is not used to separate them. For example, back-to-back, part-time, well-known.

Containing a word

Brackets, parentheses, and braces are the symbols that are mostly used to contain the words that are then further explained or taken as a group.


The squared-off notations are called brackets ([]), which are used for the technical explanations or to clarify the meaning. If we remove the content within the bracket, the sentence remains still enough to have complete meaning and make sense.

  • He [Mr. David] is the first qualified doctor in this town. 


These ({}) are the types that are used to contain multiple lines of text or the items which are listed to tell that we take them as a unit. In most of the writings, they are not common but mostly used in computer programming to tell that what is to be contained in the same lines. Another very common use of these braces is in the mathematical expressions. For example, 3{4+ [65+98]} =x.


These are the curved notations that are used to contain further thoughts or some remarks about the quality. We can also replace the parenthesis by the commas, which do not change the meaning in most of the cases.

Unique forms of punctuations 

Now the last three types of English punctuation marks, which are the ellipsis, quotation marks, and the apostrophe. We do not relate these three types to each other and have separate meanings and use.


The apostrophe (‘) is used for showing the elimination of a letter or multiple letters from a word, the case of possession, or showing the plural of lowercase letters.

  • Letter’s omission from a word: I’ve seen this episode multiple times. He wasn’t the only one leaving the town.
  • Possessive case: Jon’s dog bit his father.
  • Plural form of the lowercase: The members were instructed to mind their p’s and q’s.

Some teachers and the writer’s emphasis on the use of the apostrophes, and give preference to the use of apostrophes on the symbols ($’s), capitalized letters (Q A’s), numbers (9’s), even if they are unnecessary.


Mostly the ellipsis is shown by the three periods (. . .) sometimes also showed using three asterisks (***). In the writing or printing where the omission of words or letters is required, we use the ellipsis. We mostly use ellipsis within the quotation marks to jump from one phase to another, eliminating what is unnecessary and does not interfere with the meaning. While writing the research paper and technical articles, students quoting parts of speeches often use an ellipsis to avoid lengthy sentences that are not needed.    

Quotation Marks

Quotation marks are a pair of punctuation marks that are mostly used to note the beginning and the end of the passage, which is taken from another passage word to word. They are also used to emphasis on any word or its meaning to indicate the unusual status of a word.
Some rules should keep in mind while using quotation marks; these rules are according to the customs of the United States. The United Kingdom and other countries use other conventions.
The following are some rules that you should keep in mind.

Rule 1

Using double quotation marks directs the quotation, i.e., a word to word usage.

  • Correct: He said, “I hope you will be there soon”.
  • Incorrect: He said that he “hoped that I would be there soon.” Here the use of quotation marks is wrong because the quotation marks are only used to mark the speaker’s exact words.

Rule 2a

We always capitalize the first word in a complete quotation, even in the middle of a sentence.
• Karen said, “The situation is under control; there is no need to panic.”

Rule 2b

The quoted material which is continuing a sentence need not be capitalized.

  • Karen said that the situation is “under control” and there is “no need to panic”.

Rule 3a

Whenever you are interrupting or introducing direct quotations.

  • I said, “I don’t care.”
  • “Why,” he asked, “don’t you care?”

It is optional to use this rule in case of one-word quotations.

  • She said, “Stop.”

Rule 3b

Whenever the quotation is used before mentioning the speaking person like, he said, she asked, someone reported, she insisted, or any similar form, the material that is quoted will end with a comma.

  • “I don’t care”, she said.
  • “Stop”, he yelled.

Rule 3c

When quoting an object or a subject in a sentence, there might not be any need to use a comma.

  • Is “I don’t care” what you said to him?
  • Yelling “Stop the car” was not a good idea.

Rule 4

The commas and the periods will always be inside the quotation marks.

  • Instructions were “walk” then, they said. “Don’t Walk,” then “Walk,” all in twenty-five seconds.
  • She yelled, ”Hurry and finish the task.”

Rule 5a

There is a logic in placement of the question marks along with the quotation marks. Quotation marks should contain the question mark if we ask the question within the material that is quoted.

  • He proposed, “Will you be my friend?” 

The question here which is about friendship is the part of the quotation. 

Rule 5b

When the question is ending in the middle of a sentence, the comma is replaced by the question mark.

  • “Will you be my friend?”, he asked.

Rule 6

We use quotation marks for the components, such as the title of the chapter in a book, the episode of a TV series, the essay’s titles, or the title of short stories and the poems.
In the American publishing rules, we write the title of the entire text in italics. The title of a short work or any text that is part of a larger undertaking should also put into the quotation marks.

Rule 7

Whenever there is a quotation within a quotation, use the single quotation marks. 

  • Jack said: ”In a city outside London, I saw ‘Tourist are not welcome” written on many walls. But then I was told, ‘Pay it no attention, lad.’”

Rule 8a

With the technical terms, we also use the quotation marks, the unusual way terms, or other expressions that are different from the usual standard.

  • One of the oil-extraction methods is known as “fracking.”
  • This college makes their students do some “experimenting.”
  • She had a surprise visit from her “friend”, the taxman.

Rule 8b

In the above examples, never use single quotation marks. 
Incorrect: She had a surprise visit from her ‘friend’, the taxman.
The quotation marks above show that we use the word "friend" sarcastically. We should avoid this invalid method of the quotation; we can use a single quotation only in the case within a quotation as described in rule 7. 

Rule 9

If the quoted material is so long that it takes over one paragraph, then each new paragraph is opened with quotation marks. Till the ending of the passage, the closing quotation marks should not be used and used right at the end of the passage.

  • He said, “I don’t sing anymore. For a while, I thought it was something I could get over with.

“Now I don’t even pretend to try.”

All the above types and rules are the tools of editors, which make their writings appealing, and their ideas are then transferred to readers easily.

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