Explained: Punctuation

Written by Dan

Like most people, you probably use punctuation without giving it much thought. However, there are some basic rules of punctuation that everyone should know. This blog post will explain the different types of punctuation and when to use them. By the end, you’ll be a punctuation expert!

The most common punctuation marks and their uses

Punctuation marks are the marks of pause, emphasis or clarity in written language. The most common punctuation marks include the full-stop, comma, semicolon, exclamation point and question mark.

The full stop is used to show the ending of a sentence, such as after a declarative statement or when forming an abbreviation. The comma is used to separate different parts of a sentence or to add a pause to give emphasis.

The semicolon is a more potent form of “pause” than the comma and helps avoid confusion when joining related clauses without using coordinating conjunctions like ‘and’ and ‘but’.

An exclamation point shows strong emotion and can be used with words like ‘help’ or ‘no.” Lastly, question marks express doubt or inquiry and are usually placed at the end of sentences that ask questions.

Although these five punctuation marks are the most common in writing, they serve vital roles in helping readers accurately interpret the meaning of sentences.

How To Use Commas, Semicolons, and Colons Correctly

Using commas, semicolons, and colons correctly can seem challenging at first, but it is relatively easy. Commas are used to separate parts of a sentence, while semicolons are used to separate two clauses or independent thoughts that could stand alone.

Colons show the relation between two closely linked phrases; they are helpful when further explaining an idea or introducing lists.

Using these three punctuation marks properly will help your writing become clearer and easier to understand. With a bit of practice using them in everyday writing, you’ll be a pro in no time!

When To Use Exclamation Points and Question Marks

When communicating with people over text or email, it is essential to use punctuation carefully. Exclamation points can be a great way to express enthusiasm, approval, or excitement to the person on the other end.

However, these symbols can appear insensitive and unprofessional when used too often or in the wrong context.

On the other hand, question marks should be used any time you want to ask a direct question and will help ensure that your message is understood correctly.

Knowing when and how to use exclamation points and question marks will ensure that your tone comes across just as you intended!

The Difference Between Ellipses and Dashes

Ellipses and dashes are handy when adding emphasis or indicating a pause in writing. Despite the similarities, they do have distinct differences as well. Ellipses are three dots (…) used to indicate an interruption or omission of words, while dashes are made up of two hyphens (-), which show a break in thought or sentence structure. Additionally, dashes are often used to set apart additional detail or list items.

Ellipses tend to be more subdued and versatile; they can separate thoughts, fragment ideas, emphasize doubt, and denote hesitation or fear. As such, knowing how to use them can enable authors to better express their thoughts and create a more vivid picture for readers.

How Should Speech Marks Be Used?

Speech marks, also known as quotation marks, are used to indicate direct speech or a title of something. Single speech marks (“) should “e used when quoting parts of sentences within direct speech.

With titles, single quotes are typically used to indicate titles of shorter works, such as articles, poems, and songs. Double quotes are used for more significant works such as books or plays.

When quoting a title within another title, use single speech marks within the double ones. Understanding how and when to use speech marks will help your writing sound professional and clear!

Using Apostrophes

Apostrophes indicate possessive, contractions, and the plurals of letters or numbers. With singular nouns, you should add an apostrophe before the ‘s’ to show possession and plural nouns that do not end in ‘s’. Apostrophes are also used to indicate contractions, which combine two words into one.

For example, the contraction of “do not” i” “don'””. W “don’t “ming possessives of letters and numbers (ex: a’s, 10’s) a’sos10’shes should be placed both at the beginning and end.

Helpful Punctuation Tips

Learning and using proper punctuation in writing can be difficult for even the most experienced writer. Correct punctuation conveys the intended emotion and sets clear expectations for the reader.

For example, an exclamation mark adds emphasis to a sentence and indicates a strong feeling, while a comma provides a break that signals your reader to relax or pause. Apostrophes are mainly used to show where letters have been omitted or as a sign of possession in words.

Quotation marks can also be helpful when writing dialogue or referencing specific terms. However, care should be taken to use them correctly, so they don’t destroy the rest of your writing.

All these minor tweaks are essential if you want your work to stand out, so it is helpful to familiarize yourself with punctuation tips before you tackle any writing project.

How to Teach Punctuation

When teaching punctuation, the most straightforward approach is introducing the rules for the various marks. Explain what each mark is used for and when it should be used. It can also give examples of how these marks are used in real-life situations, as this will make them easier to remember. Give your students practice sentences that they can practice using the various punctuation marks on.

You can also get creative and use games or activities to help your students better understand when to use the different punctuation marks. With repetition, patience and guidance, your students will become more comfortable with punctuation in no time!

Overall, proper punctuation usage is vital in any form of writing. From emphasizing emotion and adding clarity to providing context, punctuation can help improve the flow and readability of your work. 

Check out our article on the 12 Tenses! It’s a tricky one! For more quizzes, plans and units of work, visit our TES store.


Do countries use punctuation differently?

Yes, different countries have different rules when it comes to punctuation. For example, British English uses single quotation marks, while American English uses double quotation marks. Additionally, some countries use commas to indicate thousands instead of periods. It’s essential to be aware of these differences if you’re writing for a specific audience or in a different language.

What is the difference between a colon and a semicolon?

A colon (:) is used to introduce a list or to emphasize something that follows it. A semicolon (;) joins two independent clauses or sentences that could stand alone. They can also be used as an alternative to commas when providing a list of items.

When do I use apostrophes?

Apostrophes are mainly used to show where letters have been omitted or as a sign of possession in words. 

What is a contraction?

A contraction combines two words where one or more letters are omitted. An example of a contraction is “don’t”, “don’t” is the contraction of “do not”. 

About The Author

I'm Dan Higgins, one of the faces behind The Teaching Couple. With 15 years in the education sector and a decade as a teacher, I've witnessed the highs and lows of school life. Over the years, my passion for supporting fellow teachers and making school more bearable has grown. The Teaching Couple is my platform to share strategies, tips, and insights from my journey. Together, we can shape a better school experience for all.






Join our email list to receive the latest updates.

Add your form here