The purpose of English punctuation (or punctuation of any language) is to make clear the reading of written communication.

In a sense, punctuation helps put into writing that which we do naturally when we speak.

In other words, we pause, we breathe, we get excited and angry, we communicate with whole sentences and we ask questions as we speak -- all of which and more is communicated in the written word through the use of punctuation.

Sadly, for the learner of English, there is no direct correspondence between phrases and commas, or voice drops and periods.

Question marks, for instance, can tell you that an answer is expected, but they do not tell us how to read the question. There are three different intonation patterns to questions (voice rise, voice fall and voice level) which precede question marks.

Some of the punctuation ‘rules’ can be considered more a matter of style than grammar; however, many rules do exist and should be understood by the learner of the language.

Learn the rules of punctuation.

Remember to place a full stop at the end of each sentence. The following lists some of the most common English punctuation; I recommend you print it out to use as a quick and ready reference.

Full stop or period = (.)

  • All statements are followed by a full stop. Full stops come at the end of a complete thought.

  • Most abbreviations are followed by periods, (Mr., Mrs., Dr.) some, however, now consider this use optional (I still use it and recommend my students do too). An abbreviation is a short way of writing something. Abbreviations follow standard forms; there is no 'inventing' them. Some short forms, like TV and UN are not abbreviations at all. They are pronounced as they are written and they are not followed by full stops. When an abbreviation occurs at the end of a sentence a closing period is required (DEA, TWA, RAF).

  • A full stop, not a comma, separates the two parts of a decimal in English punctuation (e.g., 23.16 and is read twenty-three point sixteen.)

To learn more about English punctuation click on the preceding link. You will go to a page which teaches proper apostrophe use.

The links below will take you to more pages of punctuation items.

Comma Usage

Colon Usage

Semicolon Usage