Punctuation — Definition, Types, Symbols, Usage, Examples, Quizzes, and Worksheets

Punctuation marks are a set of signs and different symbols used in written language to clarify what, when, and how things are being said. This guide covers everything you need to know about punctuation marks and how to use them correctly. Use our tips and helpful charts to learn what each punctuation mark looks like and more! You’ll be a punctuation pro in no time!

What Are the Different Types of Punctuation Marks?

The different types of punctuation are vast, so we’ll cover them in this chart with deeper explanations to follow.



Used at the end of a sentence indicating a full stop.

This is a sentence.



Used to separate parts of a sentence, indicating a short pause.

John walked through the park, enjoying the beautiful scenery.



Introduces a list, quote or explanation.

There are two choices: yes or no.



Connects two independent clauses or separates items in a list when the items contain commas.

She loves me; she loves me not.


Used to denote a pause or break in thought or to introduce a list.

She was — quite frankly — amazed.


Connects compound words or separates syllables of a word at the end of a line.



Indicates possession or the omission of letters or numbers.

“It’s” or “Mary’s car.”


Question Mark

Used at the end of a sentence to indicate a question.

How are you?


Exclamation Point

Used to express exclamation.

What a beautiful day!

“ ”

Quotation Marks

Surrounds a group of words to denote speech or a quotation.

“Hello, world!” she said.

[ ]


Used to include explanatory words or phrases within a quote.

“He [the policeman] arrived.”

( )


Used to separate material that is not part of the main sentence.

She went to the store (the one on Main Street) to buy bread.

{ }


Used to group together expressions in mathematics or programming.

{2, 4, 6, 8}


Used to indicate an omission or pause.

And then…she left.

Punctuation — Definition Types Symbols Usage Examples Quizzes and Worksheets

1. Period (.)

The period is one of the most common punctuation marks. Anyone knows the answer to “What is a period used for?” because it’s simply for ending declarative sentences. You can also use it to finish imperative sentences.

A period also indicates complete sentences. Using it to separate sentences helps make your writing clearer. Here are some examples:

  • Please take care of the shoes I’m lending you.
  • She’s going to the gym tomorrow.
  • Monte Carlo is my comfort movie every time I feel lonely.

You’ll also find a period in abbreviations, as in “Mrs.” and “Mr.”

2. Question Mark (?)

In grammar, a question mark is a familiar punctuation used to end interrogative sentences. It’s known for being a one-job punctuation mark because it simply communicates questions. These sentences can be in the form of a direct question or an indirect question.

A direct question is an interrogative sentence that asks an “ordinary” question. For example:

  • How does it feel to be living my dream?
  • What are the parts of a plant cell?
  • Why do I have to retake this subject?

An indirect question is a more polite way of making a request or asking for information. For example:

  • Could you give me your mobile number for future transactions?
  • Do you know where I can find Mr. Johnson?
  • Would you mind grabbing a few vegetables before you go home?

3. Exclamation Point (!)

One of the most basic punctuation marks is the exclamation point. The punctuation symbol for this is a straight vertical line with a period at the bottom. Use it at the end of an exclamatory sentence to show strong emotion.


  • Happy birthday, Emma!
  • Ugh! I can’t stop myself from spending money on books.
  • Wow! The sunset is breathtaking.

4. Comma (,)

One common cause of grammar mistakes in American English is the lack of commas. Use the comma to separate ideas and independent clauses. It’s usually found before a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so).

You can also use the comma to set off nouns as direct addresses. You need to include this punctuation mark, whether the name is at the beginning or end of the sentence.


  • Millie, you look stunning in your beaded dress.
  • This house used to be orange and blue, but they changed it to lilac and yellow.
  • The partner I have chosen is you, Jacob.

5. Colon (:)

A colon is used to introduce additional information. It can also connect clauses like an em dash and a comma. You’ll find this punctuation mark in any kind of writing. For example:

  • Meg has three options after college: apply as an instructional designer, learning engineer, or curriculum specialist.
  • Somehow, everyone forgot the important announcement: Jade and Ryan are getting married.

Colons also have other uses on a regular basis:

  • I started working at 8:30 p.m.
  • The correct rice-to-water ratio is 1:2.

6. Semicolon (;)

Like commas, parentheses, and em dashes, a semicolon’s function is separating elements within sentences. Use it to join a clause and a larger clause without a conjunction.


  • Let’s go to the library to finish the essay; Tuesday would be great.

7. Hyphen (-)

In the English language, hyphens are used to form compound words. Another usage of the hyphen is to divide a word where there’s not enough space for the whole word. You can also use it to avoid the awkward doubling of vowels in a compound term.


  • The president-elect withdrew his candidacy after being exposed for plunder.
  • The correct spelling of goodbye is g-o-o-d-b-y-e.
  • My mother has a well-stocked pantry.

8. Dash

There are types of dashes to consider.

En Dash (–)

The en dash is one of the different types of dashes used to indicate a range in time periods, distance, and more.


  • Please refer to pages 60–73.
  • The conference will take place on July 15–17.

Some people also use it to separate complex compound words. The symbol is longer than a hyphen but shorter than an em dash. The odd name comes from the simple fact that it has the same width as the lowercase letter n.


  • Incorrect: Chicago-New York train (hyphen)
  • Correct: Chicago–New York train (en dash)
  • Incorrect: She’s a National Book Award-winning author.
  • Correct: She’s a National Book Award–winning author.

One of the most common punctuation mistakes we make is getting confused between a hyphen and a dash. Note that the en dash doesn’t join compound words the way hyphens do.

Em Dash (—)

An em dash is one of the three kinds of dashes that functions like a comma, a colon, or parentheses in introducing a clause. It can separate independent clauses from subordinate clauses to help a writer expand on an idea.

Some people consider the em dash as more suitable for informal writing. But you’ll find this double hyphen in different types, even in the most formal writing.


  • The operating hours—9 a.m. to 9 p.m.—are the best choice for this business and its customers.

9. Brackets []

Square brackets are rarely found in any piece of writing. But you use them to clarify information within quotes. In short, it’s like parentheses for direct quotations to make the quote clearer. For example:

  • According to the author, “grammar resources [should be] widely accessible to language learners.”

10. Braces or Curly Brackets {}

Curly brackets, braces, or squiggly brackets are used to group a set. They’re commonly found in mathematical sets.


  • I already have some venue options {Pier Sixty, Tribeca Rooftop, The Foundry} for the wedding.

11. Parentheses ()

In English grammar, parentheses are used to add information to a sentence. Such a piece of information may not fit in—hence the use of this punctuation makes the sentence clearer. For example:

  • The family’s arrival (which I only learned about now) was shocking.
  • I swear I saw the ghost (Do you believe in them?) during our stay at the old house.

12. Apostrophe (’)

There is a wide variety of apostrophe rules you need to follow. First, you need to use the apostrophe in contractions. A contraction is when two words are shortened by omitting one or more letters to form one word. For example:

  • Do not—don’t.
  • I am—I’m.
  • She will—she’ll.

Another one of the apostrophe’s functions is to show the possessive form of a noun.


  • That bag is Cornelia’s.
  • Will’s dedication is impressive.

A note on apostrophes is that you can also use them to form the plurals of letters and numbers.


  • Three A’s.
  • Ten 12’s.

You’ll also find the apostrophe in foreign languages. French uses it in articles when a vowel has been dropped.

A common misuse of the apostrophe is placing it before an S to make nouns plural. Here’s an example:

  • Incorrect: I ate bacon’s for breakfast.
  • Correct: I ate bacons for breakfast.

13. Quotation Marks (“ ”)

The common quotation marks or inverted commas are used to make direct quotations or repetitions of someone’s exact words or famous quotes.

The two types of quotation marks are single quotes (‘ ’) and the more common double quotation marks (“ ”). Single quotation marks are used to enclose a quote within a quote, while double quotation marks are used to indicate a direct quote.

Punctuation styles differ between British English and American English. In American English, periods and commas are placed inside the quotations, even if they’re not in the original material, while British English places them outside quotations.

Here are some examples of sentences:

  • “The teacher told me, ‘You are one of my best students,’” I said to my mother.
  • Thomas Edison once said, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent inspiration.”

14. Ellipses (…)

The ellipses are a writing tool used for indicating words removed from a quote. It shows sentence endings while letting the reader know it’s incomplete.


  • “I can’t believe it,” she whispered, her voice trembling with disbelief and excitement. “This is truly a dream come true…”

What Are Typographical Marks?

Punctuation — Definition Types Symbols Usage Examples Quizzes and Worksheets 1

Typographical marks are punctuation marks 2.0. They’re common symbols we use in typography that help with legibility and accessibility. Here are some of the most popular ones:

1. Asterisk (*)

The asterisk is a symbol that looks like a star. It’s used to show a footnote in formal writing, primarily scientific and academic writing.


  • 25% of the respondents prefer lavender over mint.

*According to survey data from the Essential Oils Center.

2. Ampersand (&)

The ampersand replaces the word “and,” but it is not encouraged by different style guides. Use it within specific formal references like official names.


  • His fiancé gave her a Tiffany & Co ring as a birthday gift.
  • The law firm that Justine sought help from is Miller & Associates.
  • They gave a short performance at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

3. Bullet Point (•)

The bullet point is used for creating lists. Example:

For this project, you will need:

  • Fabric of your choice.
  • Peltex.
  • Fusible fleece.
  • Washable ink marker.
  • Coordinating thread.
  • Sewing needle.

4. Pound Symbol (#)

The pound sign is the punctuation mark for marking the number of something. It’s also now used for hashtags online.

It’s not to be confused with the pound symbol for the British currency. The British pound symbol represented the libra pondo, the unit of measurement for weight in the Roman Empire.


  • Candace is a #1 Internationally Bestselling Author.
  • The hashtags #writing and #publishing are trending.

5. Tilde (~)

One of the many forms of punctuation you won’t always see is the tilde. Previously known as the twiddle or squiggly, this character’s informal usage means “about” or “approximately.” It also functions as an accent mark in Portuguese and Spanish words.


  • They plan to visit São Paulo this summer, but the crowd is giving them second thoughts.
  • I think Jane and I met ~3 years ago.

6. Backslash (\)

You won’t find the backslash in letter writing, business writing, and other forms of writing. This punctuation mark is used for programming or coding, so don’t mix it with the forward slash.

However, if you’re writing fiction and your character is coding in the story, and you want to include it, then a backslash is important. The same applies to non-fiction, especially if you’re writing about coding.

  • Example: C:\programfiles

7. At Symbol (@)

The “@” symbol is a substitute for the word “at,” but only for informal writing. Its only purpose in informal writing is when you’re writing email addresses.


8. Caret Symbol (^)

The caret symbol may indicate an exponent if you can’t use the superscript function on the computer. You can also use it in proofreading.


  • 2^2 is 4, and 2^3 is 8.

9. Pipe Symbol (|)

The pipe symbol has no real place in fiction writing. Its function lies in the disciplines of computing, physics, and math. But, it’s often used stylistically in online copywriting.


  • Candace Osmond | Bestselling Author

What Are Punctuation Marks?

Punctuation marks are the signs and symbols we use in writing to clarify the meaning behind our writing. They separate sentences and their parts to help the reader understand exactly what we’re saying, when we’re saying it, and how we’re saying it.

What Is the Difference Between Grammar and Punctuation?

Think of grammar as the conductor of the language orchestra. It’s the rulebook, the guidelines, and the how-to for arranging phrases, clauses, and words in any language. Now, if grammar is the conductor, punctuation is the sheet music.

Punctuations are the symbols we scatter across the written word to create harmony and avoid chaos. In simpler terms, punctuation keeps everything from becoming a word jumble.

What Is the Role of Punctuation Characters in the English Language?

The role of punctuation characters in English is far more important than you think. These little symbols wear the crown in the kingdom of English. They’re not just pretty faces; they’re sentence-structuring, meaning-clarifying powerhouses.

Punctuation takes your reader by the hand and tells them when to stop, pause, speed up, read with a certain emphasis, and more. They help us tell the difference between a question and a statement or a reply and a thought.

What Is the History of Punctuation?

The history of punctuation goes something like this: Once upon a time, in ancient Greece, circa the 3rd century B.C.E., a clever librarian named Aristophanes thought, “Hmm, we need a system to tell us when to take a breath while reading these scrolls out loud.” So, he came up with punctuation.

As folks started reading and writing more, thanks to advances in education and the spread of religion, punctuation went viral. Fast forward to the 9th century, and you’d see punctuation hobnobbing with words everywhere, becoming an indispensable player in the game of communication.

How Is Punctuation Evolving Over Time?

Punctuation is always evolving because the way we communicate is constantly changing. Did you know that the exclamation mark was originally called the note of admiration until the 15th century?

Today, in our digital age, punctuation has evolved even further. We now use punctuation marks to convey tone and even combine them to create emotions.

What Are Informal Punctuation Marks?

Grammarist Article Graphic V10 1200 PX

Informal punctuation marks are the characters we use in casual communication, like texting or instant messaging. They’re not typically used in everyday formal writing, but they’re commonly recognized and used in casual and informal writing and digital communication.


Smiley Face

Indicates happiness or amusement


I had a great time at the party :)


Laughing Face

Indicates hearty laughter

Late 90s

That was so funny XD


Indicates a pause or omission

19th century

I don’t know…maybe.

How Many Punctuation Marks Are There in the English Language?

The English language has 14 main punctuation marks:

  • Period
  • Comma
  • Colon
  • Semicolon
  • Dash
  • Hyphen
  • Apostrophe
  • Question mark
  • Exclamation point
  • Quotation marks
  • Brackets
  • Parentheses
  • Braces
  • Ellipsis

How Are Punctuation Marks Used in Different Contexts?

Punctuation marks are versatile and adapt to all forms of writing. They can lend rhythm and flow to poetry, help us distinguish formal from informal English, and even inject a touch of personality into casual text and email exchanges.

How Are Punctuation Marks Used in Poems?

Punctuation in poetry helps to control the reading speed and adds to the overall beat of the piece. Periods create full stops, letting the reader pause, and commas create minor pauses.

Apostrophes show possession or create contractions, and dashes can signal abrupt thought changes.

A great example of this is Emily Dickinson, who’s known for her unique use of dashes in her poems. In her piece “A Bird Came Down the Walk,” the dashes create pauses and add emphasis to certain parts of the poem.

What Is the Role of Punctuation Marks in Formal and Informal English?

In formal English, punctuation marks adhere strictly to the rules. Periods, commas, semicolons, and colons are meticulously used to give structure and clarity. Formal English also demands the use of an Oxford comma in a list of three or more items. However, this also depends on the style guide you use.

But informal English has a looser approach. Colloquial language usually takes liberties with punctuation for stylistic purposes, like how you might see a string of exclamation points or question marks for emphasis.

How Are Punctuation Marks Like “?!” Used in Informal Writing?

The combination of “?!” or “!?” is an example of an interrobang. We use it to express shock or disbelief in the form of a question. So instead of it being a simple inquiry, it comes across as more of an exclamation of surprise or disbelief.

  • Informal: “You’re moving to Japan?!”
  • Formal: “Are you moving to Japan?”

It’s popular in informal writing, like text messages or social media, but isn’t typically used in formal writing.

What Is a Hedera Punctuation Mark, and Where Is It Used?

The hedera punctuation mark (❧) is a lovely piece of “flourish” used in early printed books, which is also called a fleuron. It doesn’t have a specific grammatical function but was often used to mark paragraph breaks. Nowadays, it’s more of a typographical curiosity than a functional punctuation mark.

Learning and Practicing Punctuation

Punctuation marks are integral to effective communication in English. Here are a few tips and tricks to master them.

What Are Some Basic Punctuation Rules Every English Learner Should Know?

  1. End your sentences with a period, question mark, or exclamation point.
  2. Commas are needed to separate items in a list or clauses in a sentence.
  3. Use a semicolon to connect closely related sentences.
  4. You need a colon to introduce a list or explanation.
  5. Use quotation marks around direct quotes or titles.
  6. Always use an apostrophe to indicate possession or contraction.
  7. Use hyphens to create compound words and dashes to indicate a range, pause, or abrupt change.

How Can Printable Worksheets and Charts Help in Learning Punctuation Marks?

Printable worksheets and charts are great resources if you want to practice using punctuation marks. They usually have visual guides and opportunities to apply what you’ve learned.

Punctuation Mark Exercises for Different Grade Levels

Here are a few examples of what you’d use in exercises for different grade levels:

  1. Elementary: Identify and use periods, question marks, and exclamation points in a sentence.
  2. Middle School: Use commas correctly in a series and separate clauses.
  3. High School: Practice using semi-colons, colons, and dashes in complex sentences.

How to Avoid Common Punctuation Errors

Punctuation can dramatically impact the meaning and tone of your sentences. Here’s how to sidestep some common pitfalls.

What Are the Common Punctuation Errors, and How to Correct Them?

1. Missing Oxford comma: The Oxford comma is the comma used right before the coordinating conjunction (usually “and” or “or”) in a list of three or more items. Its absence can sometimes create confusion.

  • Incorrect usage: “I love my parents, Lady Gaga and Bigfoot.” Without the Oxford comma, it seems like the parents are Lady Gaga and Bigfoot!
  • Correct usage: “I love my parents, Lady Gaga, and Bigfoot.”

2. Misplaced apostrophes: Apostrophes can indicate possession or contractions, but they are often misused. “It’s” is a contraction for “it is” or “it has,” while “its” is a possessive pronoun.

  • Incorrect usage: “Its important to feed a dog it’s food.”
  • Correct usage: “It’s important to feed a dog its food.”

3. Excessive exclamation points: We use these to add drama or urgency. However, too many exclamation points can lessen the impact you want to make and also look unprofessional.

  • Incorrect usage: “I got the publishing job!!!”
  • Correct usage: “I got the publishing job!”

4. Run-on sentences: These happen when two or more independent clauses are connected without proper punctuation.

  • Incorrect usage: “I love reading and my favorite genre is Fantasy Romance.”
  • Correct usage: “I love reading, and my favorite genre is Fantasy Romance.”

How to Learn Punctuation and Avoid Common Mistakes

  1. Practice every chance you get: The more you write and edit, the better you’ll become.
  2. Utilize writing aids: Tools like Grammarly are awesome for spotting errors and suggesting improvements.
  3. Read whenever you can: You learn faster when you see proper punctuation being used.

How to Practice Punctuation Online and Improve Your Skills

Every writer is unique and learns in different ways. What works for you might not work for others. But there are some tried and true methods of practicing your punctuation and writing skills online. Here are just a few key ones to consider:

  1. Online quizzes: Grammarist has a ton of punctuation tests, but there are many others, too. Punctuation tests can be reused whenever you need to brush up on your skills.
  2. Writing platforms: Several platforms, like Medium and Wattpad, let you publish your writing and get feedback from others. The feedback comes from other writers, editors, and professionals in the industry, but also general readers. Use these platforms to hone your skills and start generating income from your work.
  3. Educational websites: Grammarist offers comprehensive lessons on punctuation. Education.com also has a plethora of online games and apps you can get to practice and learn better punctuation skills. 

What Are Punctuation Tools?

Punctuation tools are like digital aids that help you find and correct any punctuation errors in your work. They can usually be downloaded and integrated right into programs like Google Docs and Microsoft Word. Grammarly and Hemingway Editor are some of the best ones to check out.

How Can a Punctuation Checker Assist You?

  1. Scans your written text for any punctuation, grammar, and spelling errors.
  2. Suggests ideas for corrections and gives you explanations of why these suggestions would work.
  3. Gives real-time advice as you write so you can learn as you go.

How to Use a Punctuation Chart for Reference?

  1. Print it out or keep it saved on your device.
  2. Refer to it while writing or editing.
  3. Use it to practice examples until different punctuation marks become second nature.

Let’s End on a Period

Punctuation marks are not just random symbols on a keyboard; they serve as road signs, guiding readers through the landscape of our thoughts. They give voice to our words, adding emotion and nuance, enhancing clarity, and ensuring the message we wish to convey is received as intended.

Consider the difference between “Let’s eat, Mom” and “Let’s eat Mom.” The misuse of punctuation can, at times, lead to quite a grim misunderstanding.

Punctuation Quiz

Punctuation Quiz

Edit the following sentences by properly punctuating each.
Example: Its so hot in here Answer: It’s so hot in here!

Start Over