Rules for Punctuation Marks in English

We all know how annoying English punctuation rules can be. However, did you ever stop to think that maybe it’s so annoying because you don’t quite understand everything? Maybe, with a little bit more knowledge on the subject, and knowing when and where to correctly use English punctuation, it won’t be as annoying. Punctuation, as insignificant as it may seem, is extremely important. In fact, missing or incorrect punctuation can completely change the entire meaning of a sentence. What, you don’t believe me? Let me show you.

For example, if I say “ I went to the store to buy cheese pizza and pickles.” What do you think I bought? Well, according to my sentence, I bought a cheese pizza and some pickles. However, what I meant to say was this: “I went to the store to buy cheese, pizza, and pickles.” Those commas, used in the correct places, are important! Here is another funny example: “ I like cooking my family and my pets.” That sounds horrifying, now doesn’t it? This current sentence implies that this person enjoys cooking his family and his pets. However, it is meant to say “I like cooking, my family, and my pets.” So see, commas can save lives.

How many punctuation marks are in English grammar?

Ah, the wonderful world of English punctuation marks. Before we go into detail about punctuation, let me remind you of what punctuation does. Punctuation creates clarity, and brings organization to your sentence. Have you ever tried reading something without any punctuation at all, then re-reading it with punctuation? You will immediately recognize the difference. I strongly encourage doing that for fun in your free time. It’s interesting, but anyway, back to English grammar. In total, there are fourteen commonly used punctuation marks in English grammar.

The fourteen punctuations in English are as follows:
How To Make Long Sentences In English


Of course the “period” would be number one on the list. This is perhaps the most used punctuation in the English language. So, what is it? When is it appropriate to use a period and why? Well, a period is placed at the end of a declarative sentence, a complete statement, and after different types of abbreviations. So now, you can see why periods are the most common. It’s arguably the most versatile punctuation out there, and the punctuation rules in English, regarding a period, are pretty simple and straight to the point, no pun intended.


  • Mr. Salvatore and Kitty went to the courthouse to tie the knot.


Now, I have to admit, I love commas! Perhaps you have noticed by now, but I love using commas. I just feel that they are really good at their job. What’s their job you ask? Good question! A comma is used to separate ideas or objects within a sentence. But wait, there’s more! Commas are also used in numbers, addresses, dates, and with writing letters (typically after the salutation and with closing). There is some drama with the comma though. Whether or not you should add the oxford comma before a conjunction is still a debate, and usually, it just comes down to the writer’s style.


  • I went to the store, but I couldn’t find tomatoes, onions, or mustard.
  • I went to the festival, located at 200 Powers Way Wellings, GA., on July 4th, 2019.


The colon is, in my opinion, a misunderstood punctuation mark in English. Traditionally, the colon has three main uses.

  • First, it is used after the word that introduces a quotation, explanation, or series.

EXAMPLE: I planned on going to just 3 countries on my trip: Italy, Spain, and Greece.

  • Secondly, colons are used between independent clauses, when the second clause is explains the first clause, or is similar.

EXAMPLE: I didn’t have time to cook: I got off work really late.

  • Lastly, the third use of a colon is for emphasis.

EXAMPLE: There was one thing she wanted more than anything in this world: to be a mother.


Now, moving on to the semicolon. I’m not going to lie to you here, learning the correct way to use a semicolon can be tricky. I have seen it misused several times. However, once you understand how it’s supposed to be used, I think you can easily grasp the hang of it. I have faith in you! So, with all that being said, a semicolon is used to connect independent clauses, which essentially are just two sentences or complete thoughts. Using a semicolon shows a closer relationship than that of a period.


  • Amy was sad; she knew she would have to leave her family.


Punctuation marks in English grammar can be very confusing, I know, but you’ve made it this far into this post. So, let’s keep going and look at the hyphen. A hyphen is used when joining two or more words together into a compound that is not separated by spaces.


  • part-time, back-to-back, one-page, mother-in-law


Dashes are kind of like the free for alls, or so people think, when it comes to the use of punctuation marks in English grammar. No one really knows how to use them, so they kind of just put them wherever they’d like. As you can imagine this is very frustrating for an English teacher like myself. So, let me break it down for you. Dashes are used to separate words into statements, and there are two types of dashes: the en dash, and them em dash.

  • En dash- This dash is used in writing to indicate range, connections, or differentiations.

EXAMPLE: 2000-2009, or Seoul- Atlanta (flight).

  • Em dash- This dash is longer than the en dash, and can be used in place of a comma, parenthesis, or a colon. When the em dash replaces these types of punctuation, it enhances or emphasizes the conclusion of that sentence.

EXAMPLE: She didn’t have friends —she died alone.


Apostrophes are such headaches! Their placement is tricky to know and understand, and that leaves people just throwing apostrophes everywhere they can. Well, this problem is almost always due to people just not understanding that the apostrophe is used in two, very different, ways: possession and contractions, which I will elaborate more on in a minute. So, don’t forget that, especially with apostrophes, the use of punctuation marks in English grammar can be extremely tedious and confusing, so pay close attention to these examples.

Contractions: Apostrophes are most commonly used with contractions whenever a noun, pronoun, or verb combine. Keep in mind that typically, the apostrophe replaces a letter, so one letter is usually cut outs, and the apostrophe goes in it’s place.


  • is not = isn’t / cannot= can’t

Possession: You’ve guessed it! Possessive apostrophes show possession! Most of the time, all you need to do is just add an ‘s to a noun. However, both singular and plural nouns that end in “s“do not follow with rule.


  • Noah’s backpack/ Davis’ car/ The children’s playroom/ The teachers’ lounge

How To Make Long Sentences In English

Quotation mark

This one isn’t so bad. Personally, I feel it is fairly simple. We use quotation marks when we want to cite something someone said exactly, or for unfamiliar or idiomatic phrases.


  • “I’m going to the party now,” she said.
  • He was such a “pain in the butt” last night.
  • I’m not sure what “reverse dieting” is, but my doctor said he will explain it to me.


Learning English punctuation can be a bit overwhelming, I know. After all, there are 14 basic English punctuation marks in total. Brackets though, they are easy to understand and use. Usually, brackets are used for technical purposes, such as in tech manuals or computer codes, or to explain something better that is within a quotation. Now, as you can imagine, it is hard to give an example of this, but I shall do my best.


  • “You can’t have her [the dog], she is mine!”


Parentheses are used in similar ways to commas. In fact, some grammar experts may argue that commas can replace any parentheses in almost all scenarios. They simply just add further explanation or afterthought to the main line commentary.


  • I visited Tokyo (n the middle of cherry blossom season) while on my way to the Japanese countryside.


The most underrated English punctuation mark will definitely have to be braces. They are used to mark pauses and sometimes, to represent choices. However, they are most commonly seen in mathematics and music.


  • Choose your toppings { cheese, pepperoni, olives, bacon, or peppers} and then place the pizza in the oven.

Exclamation mark

Exclamation marks are also a personal favorite. I am just a very enthusiastic person, so it only makes sense that my writing is the same, right? Exclamation marks are used to express surprise, astonishment, exasperation, or to emphasize a short phrase.


  • Watch out!
  • Oh my gosh!
  • He got married!

Question mark

I know this post is rather lengthy, but you are almost there, and question marks are really simple to understand. Don’t worry. Question marks are used at the end of all direct questions.


  • Where are you from?
  • Do you speak English?
  • Are you married?


I’m not going to lie to you, the word “ellipsis” is pretty fancy, even amongst the grammar gurus like myself. Typically, you will hear this referred to as “dot-dot-dot.” This is because it consists of there periods in a row. Ellipses are used to show omission in a quote, to pause or show a break, and to show expense.


  • “I went to the party…and came straight home.”
  • She creaked the door open….saw the intruder… and immediately called 911.
  • Hmm, I never thought about that…

All in all, what do you think? I mean, there you have it: a detailed list of all the basic English punctuation marks. I do hope you have learned a lot in this post. I know that, even for myself: an American, native English speaker with an English degree, I have never really thought about punctuation much before writing this post. I know of them all, of course, however, I usually tend to use just a small handful in my everyday writing. So, I’m going to challenge myself to open up to more punctuation usage, and I challenge you do to the same! Don’t let me down, I know you can do it!


How To Make Long Sentences In English

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