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December 18, 2015

Punctuation refers to the appropriate use of putting Points or Stops in writing. For any writing to be understood, it must be punctuated correctly.



The following are the principal stops.


(1) Full stop or period (.)            (2) Comma (,)                            (3) Semi colon (;)


(4) Colon (:)                              (5) Question Mark (?)                 (6) Exclamatory Mark (!)


(7) Hyphen (-)                            (8) Apostrophe (‘)



The following are the main guidelines.


  • Full Stop


  1. A full stop is used


(a) at the end of a sentence. (unless a question mark or an exclamation mark is used)


(b) after initials in names, countries, medals, degrees e.g.


  1. R. Doyens, U.S.A., V. C. (Vice Chancellor), B.Sc.



  1. After shortened forms of words that do not end in the last letter of the word e.g. Jan., Fri.



A full stop is not used


(1) after the shortened forms of words that end with the last letter of the word.


  • Dept (Department)


  • Lieut (Lieutenant)


(2) after symbols of measurement km, kmph etc.


(3) after headings and titles


(4) after dates: 25th July, 1971


(5) after a signature in a letter


  • Comma

The comma represents the shortest pause and it used


(a) to separate words in a list e.g.


  • I gave her a book, a pencil, a rubber and a ruler




(b) to separate the adjectives in a sentence e.g.


  • She wore a beautiful, long, new coat.


  • He wrote her lesson neatly, quickly and correctly.
  • To show a pause by separating a phrase.


  • The cat, yawning lazily, closed its eyes


  • To show a pause by separating the sentences.


  • His room was dirty, books were scattered and dirty clothes littered the floor.


  • before ‘but’


  • The new boy was small, but strong.


  • before ‘as’, ‘since’, ‘because’.


Note: This is true if ‘s’, ‘since’ convey the meaning ‘because’.




  • Mother was worried, as I was not well.


  • He failed the test, since he did not study well


  • after participle phrases that begin a sentence





  • Feeling tired, I went to bed.


  • Running to the gate, he opened it quickly.
  • before and after words that give more information about the subject.


  • My friend, who is a writer, is a tennis player.


  • after however


  • we knew, however, that he was going to die.


  • to separate two principal clauses (complete thoughts) joined by ‘but’, ‘so’, ‘for’ ‘or’, ‘nor’.


  • Finish your work, or you will be punished.


  • after’ yes’ and ‘no’ when these begin an answer


  • Yes, I am going to town.
  • No, it is not late.



Commas are not used in a clause that specifically identifies the noun.





  • This is the book which I was given for Christmas (which book?)


  • The teacher spoke to the boy who had misbehaved. (which boy?)


  • Semi Colon


(a) A semicolon is used to join sentences with principal clauses not connected by a conjunction e.g.


  • The rocket rose; it suddenly burst into a ball of flame.


  • We were confident; the game was about to start; I felt nervous.


(b) It is used to separate clauses which already contain commas. e.g.


  • Last year, my brother won every match; there was no one who could defeat him.


  • Colon

A colon is used


(a) before enumeration of examples, etc.; as,


  • This year I am studying these subjects. geography, history, English, maths, and biology


  1. b) to introduce a quotation. Francis Bacon says: “Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man and writing an exact man.”


(c) to introduce a statement which tells more about the one that comes before it.



  • My mother taught me two golden rules: I was to do my best and never tell lies.


  • Question marks

Question marks are used at the end of a sentence that asks a direct question e.g.


  • Did your brother do his home work?


  • Question marks are not used.


(a) when using indirect or reported speech e.g.


  • He was asked if he wanted to sleep.


(b) when the sentence is a request e.g.

  • Would you please pass the salt?


  • Exclamation marks

Exclamation marks are used after words or a group of words which express sudden a feeling:

Alas!, Hurrah! Etc.


Exclamation marks are not used with a full stop.


Note: If the exclamation mark comes after one or two words, start the next word with a capital letter e.g.


  • Help! Fetch me a glass of water!


  • Hyphen


(a) Hyphens are used to connect parts of some compound words e.g.


  • Well-written, mother-in-law


(b) Hyphens are used in numbers and fractions e.g.


  • Thirty-five three-quarters.


  • Apostrophes


Apostrophes are used


  1. with nouns to show ownership or possession e.g.


  • dog’s paw, men’s room etc.


  1. to write plurals of numbers and letters of the alphabet e.g.


  • There are two S’s in this word.


  • There are two 8’s in this number.


  1. in expressions using time e.g.


  • a minute’s rest


  • two years’ time


  1. in the names of churches


  • Joseph’s in Colombo.


  1. in names of churches ending in ‘S’.


  • Nicholas’ on main street.


  1. in place of numbers in dates


  • ’85 (instead of 1985)


  1. to show ownership in a phrase —– only the last word takes the apostrophe.


  • The king of Bhutan’s Palace.


  1. to show joint possession


  • Tom and Mary’s cat (when not a joint possession: Tom’s and Mary’s cats)