Instantly enhance your writing in real-time while you type. With LanguageTool

Get started for free
Back to overview

LanguageTool’s Punctuation Guide

powered by LanguageTool

From apostrophes to semicolons and everything in between, this punctuation cheat sheet will explain what punctuation marks are and what each specific one does.

White text over orange background reads "punctuation marks." (Punctuation meaning, correct punctuation)
Knowing how to properly use punctuation can improve your writing skills.

What Is Punctuation?

Punctuation is a mark or symbol used in your writing that helps readers separate elements of a sentence, making your text easier to understand. Without punctuation marks, interpreting what a writer is intending to say would be a great challenge. This guide will briefly go over 11 punctuation marks, starting with apostrophes and ending with semicolons.

Punctuation Sheet Cheet, Punctuation Guide, Punctuation Meaning
There are several different types of punctuation marks.

What Are the Basic Punctuation Marks, From A to Z?

There are several punctuation marks, but below we’ll cover 11 of the most basic ones.


What Is an Apostrophe?

An apostrophe can be used for contractions (or a shortened version of a word):

Lets go to the Bahamas next weekend.

Apostrophes are also used in possessives.

Evelyns house was rented out for the holidays.

What Is a Colon?

:

A colon introduces a list, separates clauses, and can help add emphasis.

I have three favorite books: A Confederacy of Dunces, Talking to Strangers, and When Breath Becomes Air.
Suzanne has a lot of time to practice guitar: she just quit her job.
I finally found out who has been sneaking in and eating all my snacks: Duncan.

Colons are also used as a symbol to tell time (12:00) and express a ratio (2:4).


What Are Dashes?

or

There are two types of dashes: en dashes and em dashes.

En dashes (–) represent a range between numbers, dates, and times. They also establish a relationship between words and ideas.

We met during the 20112012 school year.
Clark went to the Miami HeatBoston Celtics game.

Em dashes (—) are extremely versatile and can replace commas, colons, and parentheses. Like colons, they can help add emphasis.

We visited several countries this summerSpain, Ireland, Germany, and Norway.

What Is an Ellipsis?

An ellipsis (plural form is ellipses) is three dots that indicate an omission. It’s often used in journalistic writing for quoted materials.

A lot was said during the press conference. The most important point made was, “Emilia Johanson did all she could to win the primaries This won’t be the last time she runs for county office.”

What Is an Exclamation Point?

!

An exclamation point is found at the end of a sentence and adds emphasis or indicates something surprising.

Congratulations! I knew you would win first place.

In British English, this punctuation is also known as an exclamation mark.


What Is a Hyphen?

-

Hyphens have several uses. They’re commonly used to join compound words, join adjectives before a noun, and indicate fractions.

We missed our check-in and had to reschedule the entire trip.
Karen wanted nothing more than to deliver a well-prepared project.
Sparky had eaten two-thirds of the cake by the time we caught him.

What Are Parentheses?

( )

Parentheses (singular: parenthesis) allow the writers to add more information.

Both Golden Retrievers (who coincidentally came from the same breeder) were found playing in the park.

Please note that in British English, parentheses are known as brackets and vice versa, and are represented by […].


What Are Periods?

.

Periods end a sentence.

Barbara gave her two-weeks notice.

Periods are also used for abbreviations.

Mrs. Taylor won the award for teacher of the year.

What Is a Question Mark?

?

Question marks are found at the end of a sentence and are used to indicate a question.

Did you arrive on Tuesday or Wednesday?

What Are Quotation Marks?

“ ”

Quotation marks are used when a quote is being used word for word or to indicate dialogue.

Mark asked with enthusiasm, Did I get the promotion?

Like apostrophes, there are straight and curly quotation marks.


What Are Semicolons?

;

Semicolons connect independent clauses. It can show a closer relationship between the clauses compared to a period, but less separation than a colon.

We bought a house on the beach; the water is just 20 steps away from us.

Proper Punctuation Is Important

This guide briefly explains the functions of basic punctuation marks. It may seem like a lot to absorb at once, but knowing how to use punctuation marks properly significantly improves your texts readability. Thats why its a good idea to use LanguageTool as your writing assistant. Not only will it always suggest proper punctuation and point out when youve missed one, but it will also suggest stylistic improvements. Additionally, it was also correct spelling and grammar mistakes to ensure your text is flawless!


Unleash the Professional Writer in You With LanguageTool

Go well beyond grammar and spell checking. Impress with clear, precise, and stylistically flawless writing instead.

Get started for free
We Value Your Feedback

We’ve made a mistake, forgotten about an important detail, or haven’t managed to get the point across? Let’s help each other to perfect our writing.