Basic Punctuation Guide

Write a diary

This is a very basic punctuation guide. It should help you with academic English and also English for general purposes.

  • Full stop/Period (.)

  • Use this to end a basic statement.

    “I am studying English.”

  • Comma (,)

  • This is used to separate clauses, usually when there are no conjunctions (joining words such as ‘and’, ‘or’, ‘but’, ‘because’, and ‘so’ among others).

    “The man I saw, so tall that he saw over everyone’s head, was not a handsome fellow.”

    This includes the end clause of a tag question.

    “You know this already, don’t you?”

    It is also used to separate items in lists; there may be a comma separating a list item after ‘and’ in a list, called an Oxford comma, but it may also be left out.

    “I went shopping for bread, milk, orange juice and toilet paper.”

  • Question Mark (?)

  • This is used to end questions.

    “What time did you get up?”

    “Do you know the way to San Jose?”

    “It’s morning, isn’t it?”

  • Exclamation mark (!)

  • Think of this as an explosion. It’s strong. Never use this in academic writing unless it is part of a quote.

    “Bloody hell! It’s freezing today.”

    “Stop that now!”

  • Colon (:)

  • This is used to precede lists or long quotes.

    “There are three things I love: morning coffee, afternoon tea and a kiss goodnight.”

    “In the text, Jones (2014) stated:

    There are many different ways to study English, including many ways to study effectively. Unfortunately there are many more ways to study ineffectively, wasting both time and money.”

  • Semicolon (;)

  • This is used to separate multiple-claused items in lists when a comma just isn’t enough.

    “I bought the following things: a black leather jacket that was previously owned by the rock star Tony Iommi; a pair of heavy paratrooper boots; and a baby-pink Gibson Flying V electric guitar.”

    It can also connect two slightly unrelated clauses (known as a non-sequitur).

    “It was raining; she held her umbrella unfurled against the sky.”

I hope this is helpful. If so, why not share it with your friends?