Punctuations are necessary for the production of effective and clear writing. We will take up all the different punctuation marks which we can say are most important to our study:
It is probably the most frequently used punctuation mark. It is used to separate different parts of sentences, and to tell the readers to pause between words, or group of words or clauses and also helps in clarifying the meaning of a sentence.
Use of comma is optional, i.e. it depends on the writer how much he/she wants to use it. Some writers use it a lot, while others use them sparingly.
Thus, it depends on the individual, and maybe you will find that not using them frequently leads to a more effective writing; it is all very subjective.
Every comma represents a slight pause, hence a small break in the sentence. The pauses are necessary and hence the use of comma is optional only if the meaning of the sentence will not change if the comma is not used.
We will now try to describe all the different uses of comma:
Commas are used to separate phrases, clauses or groups of three of more words. You can use these before the coordinating conjunctions which join the independent clauses.
- Exams will take place on the Sunday, so be prepared.
- I went there to buy some chocolates, but I didn’t find any.
Let us also take an example of how comma is optional – In the example below, we will not use the comma but you can choose to use it before the conjunction ‘and’:
- He asked for more money and he got it.
Use comma before an introductory phrase or word.
Used after an adverbial introductory phrase:
- After searching all day long, he finally found his purse.
Used after an introductory adverb:
- Fortunately, I reached there on time.
Used after an introductory prepositional phrase:
- In the bottom drawer, you will find a pen.
Using a comma to separate items in a list, or separate the entities: –
- I need to go to the supermarket to buy some vegetables, oil, eggs and flour.
- The countries I would like to visit: Croatia, Italy, Spain and Brazil.
Some writers use comma after nonessential phrases; this usage is optional.
- That place, I reckon, is really haunted.
- Well yes, I hate it.
Use a comma to set off an appositive (a word or a phrase which renames a noun)
- Mike, Ron’s father, was a brilliant mathematician.
Punctuation Rules with Examples
End of Sentence Punctuation Marks
These punctuation marks let the reader know that the sentence is over. The punctuation marks which indicate the end of a sentence are:
Period: It is the most frequently used end punctuation marks; it is just used to terminate a sentence.
- Go to the kitchen, and bring me something to eat.
- It is quite windy today.
Exclamation mark: This punctuation mark is used after an exclamatory sentence. Use it in a sentence which represents a sense of urgency, excitement and some strong emotions. Exclamation marks are rarely, if at all, used in formal writing.
- This fish is really beautiful!
- Go there now!
The exclamation mark should not be used to unnecessary exaggerate sentences, like:–
- He is the best player ever!
The word best has already emphasized and stressed how good a player he was, so there is no need of an exclamation mark in the end.
Question mark: This punctuation mark is used after a sentence which refers to a direct question:-
- Where are you going?
- What is his name?
The question marks should be used only after a direct question. We will give some examples of indirect questions. See that no question mark is required in such sentences:–
- I am not sure who broke this window.
- It is not a direct question to anyone.
- He then asked some tough questions.
Again, no question is asked to the listener (s).
These are used to join two independent clauses which are not joined by coordinating conjunctions; you may consider a semicolon as a replacement for coordinating conjunctions.
Note that the independent clauses joined by a semi-colon must always be related to each other. For example, the semi-colon is wrongly used in the sentence given below.
- The weather is nice; food is delicious.
There is no relation or obvious connection between the independent clauses of this sentence, so the semi-colon should not be used here. You should also not use semi-colon in case of a dependent clause, like
- After having a good dinner; we went for a walk.
A comma should be used in place of this semi-colon.
We will now give a couple of examples showing an appropriate use of the semi-colon:-
- I like all the subjects we are taught in school; however, science is my favorite subject.
The word ‘however’ in this sentence is known as a conjunctive adverb or just a transition word as it connects two clauses of a compound sentence.
- Eating good food keeps one healthy; exercising is also important.
Semi-colons can be used to avoid confusion in case a string of commas already exists, like:-
- I have been to quite a few famous places: London, England; Paris, France; Rome, Italy; and Athens, Greece.
A semi-colon should not be used where a coordinating conjunction exists, like:-
- I would love to buy this car; but, I do not have enough money for it.
A comma should be used instead of this semi-colon.
In some particular cases, you can use a semi-colon when a coordinating conjunction already exists: if independent clauses are very long, and quite a few number of commas have been used already.
A lot of people confuse the colon with the semi-colon, and vice versa, but the use of these punctuation marks is very different. Basically, a colon is used to call the attention of the readers to what is to follow.
We will now describe the uses of a colon and when it should be used:-
Use a colon to introduce a list:
- The cities I have visited: London, Istanbul, Athens and Rome.
Colons can also be used after an independent clause, but only if the clause that follows this colon explains or reasons the previous clause, or just somehow completes it. For example:
- My presentation went really well: everyone said that I presented my ideas nicely.
- All his hard work resulted in nothing: he failed to acquire the passing marks.
- I learned a great lesson today: never give up.
Now, let us see how a colon should not be used:–
Do not use a colon between a preposition and its object.
- I went to: London, Rome, Athens and Paris. (Incorrect)
- I went to London, Rome, Athens and Paris. (Correct)
A colon should also not be used between a verb and its object.
- My favorite food cuisines are: Indian, Chinese and Mexican. (Incorrect)
- My favorite food cuisines are Indian, Chinese and Mexican. (Correct)
A colon should not be used after explanatory or introductory words.
- It is common knowledge that the bureaucrats in the department, such as: Prasad, Mr. Das and Mr. Choudhary are corrupt. (Incorrect)
- It is common knowledge that the bureaucrats in the department, such as Mr. Prasad, Mr. Das and Mr. Choudhary are corrupt. (Correct)
Hyphens Prefixes, suffixes and letters are joined to words by hyphens. They are also used to join word units or form compound words. We will now see some of the examples of how they are used:
- One-thirds of the people say they do not smoke.
- Fifty-five people have applied for this job.
The elements which are inside the parentheses are related to the sentence, but cannot be deemed essential. Let us see how these are used –
They add or show information that is not essential to the sentence; they are also used to de-emphasize what is mentioned before them. For example
- We saw quite a few European countries (Italy, England, Spain) last summer.
These can also be used to enclose numbers, i.e. a list in the sentence:
- I want to see (1) Delhi, (2) Bombay and (3) Srinagar
A sentence can also be enclosed in parenthesis which would help explain or clarify the information conveyed in the statement.
Note that when a sentence is enclosed in brackets, no period is needed, but exclamation and question marks can be used, if necessary, like
- The clothes (I bought them two weeks back) were all there in the suitcase.
An independent sentence can also be enclosed in parenthesis. In that case, the end punctuation will be inside the parentheses:
- Chetan said that the movie was great (I had seen that movie too.) He said it is one of the best movies he has ever seen.
The possessive case of a noun is shown by an apostrophe, it can also be used to show the letters you have left out in contraction. Let us see some of the examples:
- Ron’s car is one of a kind.
The use of ‘Ron’s’ shows the possessive case.
- Reviews of this movie are good, but I haven’t seen it yet.
The use of ‘haven’t’ is a contraction of have not.
The possessive case of a noun is shown by putting an apostrophe just after the s.
- I am very concerned about my friends’ future.
Possessive pronouns do not need an apostrophe, like hers, theirs, and yours. The same applies to the possessive pronoun its (it’s on the other hand is just a contraction of it is)
- Its colors are magnificent.
- I brought my ID card, but she forgot to bring hers.
Thanks for reading about “punctuation rules with examples.”