Grammar Basics: Punctuation Rules

Punctuation (derived from the Latin word punctum, a point) implies the right usage of various kinds of points and stops in writing. The following are the main points and stops used in writing:
  1. Full stop (.)
  2. Colon (:)
  3. Semicolon (;)
  4. Comma (,)
  5. Ellipses (…)
  6. Apostrophe (’)
  7. Question mark (?)
  8. Exclamation mark (!)
Additionally, the punctuation rules include the correct usage of quotation marks (“..”), capital letters and writing numbers. Here, we will discuss the basic rules of punctuation for each of main points and stops used in English grammar.
Basic rules of Punctuation:
Full stop or Period (.)
This is the greatest pause used at the end of a declarative/imperative statement or sentence.
E.g. We went for a walk in the morning.
Colon (:)
Colons follow independent clauses and are used to put emphasis on the information that follows it. They may come before a word, phrase, quotation, a list, examples, enumeration or a sentence.
E.g. John had only one thing on his mind: his career.
Semicolon (;)
Semicolon is used between two main clauses where the second main clause is not grammatically linked to the first.
E.g. Mark and his son start work at every morning; they get up early because there is always a lot to do.
Comma (,)
Commas are used to present shorter pauses than a semicolon. It is usually put after sub clauses. Comma is also used between two main clauses before the word ‘but’ and ‘or’, provided the second clause has a subject. Examples:
  • Sheena was an intelligent, young lady.
  • Tony looked for the book, but couldn’t find it.
Ellipses (…)
The Ellipses consists of three evenly spaced dots. It is used when you quote something and want to omit some other words. Ellipses should be used only when you are omitting words within citations.
E.g. The ceremony honoured some … from the US.
Apostrophe (’)
Apostrophes are used in the possessive form of nouns or short forms and contractions. In case of possessive form, they are placed before/after ‘s’ to show possession by a person/persons. Examples:
  • We’ve (contraction of ‘we have’)
  • Won’t (contraction of ‘will not’)
  • I’ll (contraction of ‘I will’)
  • Aren’t (contraction of ‘are not’)
  • The girl’s dress. (Singular)
  • The girls’ dresses. (Plural)
  • Mr. Singh’s house. (Singular)
  • The Singhs’ house. (Plural for family)
Question mark (?)
Question mark is used, instead of full stop, after a direct question. It cannot be used after an indirect question. Examples:
  • Have you done your homework? (Direct form)
  • She asked me whether I had completed my homework. (Indirect form)
Exclamation mark (!)
Exclamation marks are used after Interjections and after phrases and sentences expressing sudden emotion/wish.
E.g. What a terrible fire this is!
Quotation marks (“..”)
Quotation marks are put before and after direct speech. Also, a comma is put before or after the direct speech.
  • “It’s time for the movie,” Sheetal said.
  • Sheetal said, “It’s time for the movie”.
Capital letters
A sentence always begins with a capital letter. Proper names, name of days and months also begin with capital letter. Further, ‘I’ is always written in capitals.
The above mentioned rules form the foundation of punctuation in English language.