English Punctuation Rules

Here are some of very useful and handy tips for English Punctuation Rules:         

Variations in tone and short and long pauses in speech are indicated by different marks of punctuation in writing.  The aim of all these signs is to make the sense clear and to record, truthfully the tones of the speakers.

           In most cases, the practice of good writers differs from one another.  Whereas some writers would not use any signs other than the obvious ones (period, comma, exclamation and Interrogation) and those, too, scantily, there are others who are notorious for the excessive and burdensome use of almost every sign.  Writers like Carlyle have used even capital letters and hyphens unnecessarily and excessively.

        A general rule for the students is to use the punctuation marks sparingly, and to avoid the use of commas where the sense is clear and comprehensible.English Punctuation Rules


  1. The Period, or Full Stop                                  [ . ]
  2. The Question Mark                                          [ ? ]
  3. The Exclamation Mark                                    [ ! ]
  4. The Comma                                                        [ , ]
  5. The Semicolon                                                   [ ; ]
  6. The Colon                                                            [ : ]
  7. The Quotation Marks or Inverted Commas    [ “ ” ]
  8. The Quotation Marks, single                           [ ‘’ ]
  9. The Apostrophe                                                  [‘   ]
  10. The Hyphen                                                        [ – ]
  11. The Dash                                                             [ — ]
  12. The Parentheses or Curves                              [ ( ) ]
  13. The Slash                                                             [/]
  14. The Ellipsis                                                         […]
    1. THE FULL STOP OR PERIOD [ . ] The full stop is used at the end of declarative sentences, indirect questions and most imperative sentences;

                He is an honest man.                                       (Declarative Sentence)

                We will never let you down.                           (Declarative Sentence)

                He asked what was the latest score.               (Indirect Question)

                Get out of the room.                                       (Imperative Sentence)

    • The full stop is used after most abbreviations:

                Prof., Maj. Gen.,  F.A..,  B.A.,  etc., e.g., i.e.

    •  Abbreviations for Government agencies and international organizations      DO      NOT have full stops.

          PN – Pakistan Navy                            PAF—Pakistan Air Force

          UN- United Nation                             ILO – International Labour Organization

          UNESCO – United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural    Organization.

    • Mr., Mrs., and Dr. may be written with or without a full stop.
    • E. Three full stops are used to mark the omission of a part of a sentence from a quotation.

                “We must be prepared to face all difficulties and consequences, make all the sacrifices… to achieve the goal we have set in force of us.”

    •  Three full stops are used when the omission comes at the end of the quoted sentence:

                “Islam abhors all material limitations …”

    • A full stop is used at the end of a polite request in the form of a question:

                Would you please give me a piece of paper.


    New World Dictionary: The Pakistan Review; The Muslim Community; The Little Girl Found; Red Shoes.

    1. THE QUESTION MARKS  [  ? ]
    • The question marks is used at the end of a direct question: what is your name?

                            “What do you insist on seeing him?” he said.

    • The question mark may be used after each query in a series if one wishes to emphasize each unit:

    What are you going to do new?  Face the challenge like a man? Or shut your eyes like a pigeon and hope that the danger is over?

    • A question mark enclosed in parentheses used to indicate doubt about the correctness of a word, number or fact; He was born in 1550 (?) and died in 1610.

                            He asked me if my brother had returned.


      The exclamation mark is used at the end of a forceful utterance or imperative  sentence: My God !  How could you do this to your own brother “Stop ! Stay  where you are !” shouted the policemen.

    1. THE COMMA [ , ]              The comma is used to separate words, phrases and clauses in a series;

        He is an honest, hardworking and conscientious worker. Rising early in the morning, taking a cold bath and going       out for a long walk ensure good health.

        If he works hard, if he works regularly, and if he works intelligently, he will certainly succeed.

    • The comma is generally omitted before the conjunction in a series of words:

                            He sells pens, pencils, markers and paper.

    • The comma may he used before the conjunction if there is a danger of  ambiguity. However, when last two elements of a series are considered as one   unit, the comma is not used before the conjunction between them:

    I would like tea, toast, and fish and chips for breakfast. Here fish and chips is the name of a particular kind of food.

    • Commas are used to set off contrasted elements of a sentence:

                            He, not his brother, started the fight.

    • The comma is used to separate identical words coming consecutively in a sentence:

                Whatever is, is not always right.

    • A comma is used to get off introductory yes, no, words of direct address, and       mild exclamations:-

    Yes, I believe in your story.

    No, you are not being honest with me.

    Father, I am here.

    Robert, bring that table here.

    Oh, I do not mind.

    • A comma or commas are used to set off transitional introductory words like however, never, nevertheless, anyway, therefore, moreover, accordingly, consequently

    We went to his place, however, we could not see him.

    Nevertheless, I have not lost all hope.

    Anyway, he did his best.

    He met an accident on his way to the college and is, therefore, in the hospital.

    His remarks were unfortunate, uncalled for and, moreover, unworthy of a decent man.

    He received new instructions and has, accordingly, left for an unknown destination.

    Consequently, he was forced to resign from the Cabinet.

    • Commas are used to set off dates, addresses and titles:

                            It was June 21, 1980.

                            His present address is 27 Greecy Street, Hogu Town, Bangkok.

                            Dr. A.W. Benet, Director of National Academy.

    • The comma is used to set off a question at the end of a statement:

    You will consider the offer, won’t you?

    • The comma is used after the salutation and the closing phrase in personal letters:

    Dear Clinton,

    Yours affectionately,

    • The comma is used to separate a direct quotation from the reporting speech. If the reporting speech comes between two independent quotations, a semicolon or a period is used before the second quotation:

                He said, “I will return as soon as I can”.

                “You can come to me”, he said, “whenever you need my help.”

                “Call at me this evening”, he said.  You will not regret it.”

    • The comma is used to indicate omitted words in a parallel construction in a  sentence:

    He is working hard; his brother, not at all.

    • The coma is used to set off absolute and parenthetical element in a sentence:

                            He did not say it, I remember now, but he did imply it,

    • The comma is used to separate words, phrases and clauses out of natural sentence order:

                It was, incidentally, his first public speech,

                That he would be so rude, none of us expected.

                None of us expected that he would be so rude.

    • The comma is used to separate an introductory phrase or clause from the main clause:

                In spite of his bad health, he attended the meeting.

                If he had not come, we would have cancelled the meeting.

    • The comma is used to separate adverbs or adverbial phrases that modify the whole clause or sentence:

                Fortunately, he arrived just in time.

    • The comma is used to separate a dependent clause when it comes in the middle of the sentence:

                The mirror, although it was carefully packed in a box, broke into pieces during transit.

    • The comma is used before, the conjunction and, but, for, or, yet, and nor when they join clauses of a compound sentence:

                We were given a very warm welcome, and were delighted.

                We went to see him at the address he had given us, but no one there had ever heard of a person of that name.

                He would never agree to this, for he is an honest man.

                Was it really he who did it?  Was it really he, or will it was imagination playing tricks or me?

                Everyone hates his notorious activities, yet none will say so.

                We never under-estimated his genius for evil, nor did he himself.

                The comma, however, is omitted when the meaning is clear.

    • The comma is used to set off non-restrictive phrases or clauses form the rest of the sentence. A non-restrictive phrase or clause is not essential to the meaning of the sentence:

                This pen, an expensive one, is a gift from my brother.

                My computer, which I bought last year, is out of order.

    • Restrictive or defining, phrases and clauses are essential to the meaning of the sentence and are NOT set off by commas:

                Everyone who joins the school must sign a pledge of good behaviour.


                That he has not told the whole truth is clear beyond any doubt.


             He is a simple, honest, straightforward man.

    1. THE SEMICOLON [ ;]
    • A semicolon is used between two independent clauses when they are not joined   by a co-ordinate conjunction:

          To err is human; to forgive divine.

    • A semicolon is used to separate independent clauses joined only by conjunctive adverbs – however, nevertheless, consequently, accordingly, moreover, them     hence, also besides, thus, etc:

                                        Governments come and go; however, the nation abides,

                            He has fulfilled his promises; consequently, we should honour our   obligations.

    • A semicolon is used with a co-ordinate conjunction-and, but, yet, etc. when the independent clauses themselves contain commas:

    He will gladly help you, defend you and lend you money; but will never recommend you for a job you are not fit for.

    In view of his unfortunate circumstances, we ignored his negligence, regularized his absence from duty without leave, and accepted his request for a loan; yet he is ungrateful.

    He refused, once and for all, to accept their demands; and I do not blame him for that.

    • A semicolon is used to separate series of phrases and clauses when they contain commas:

    Before you embark upon this new project, consider first, whether you really want to go for it;   second, if you have the necessary money to finance it: and finally, whether you have the necessary ability to succeed in it.

    • A semicolon is used to separate the units of a series of clauses and phrases introduced by a colon:

                                        The profits recorded were: 1982, Rs. 20,000; 1983 , Rs. 30,000.

    • A semicolon is used in lists of names, titles, degrees and addresses:

                            Mr. Samuel Jhonson, B. A Hons;  M.A. (London).

    1. THE COLON [ : ]
    • A colon is used before introducing a formal direct quotation or question, and   clauses that explain the main clause:

                                       Noreen cited the line from Chaucer:  If gold rusts what shall iron do.

    • A colon is used after salutation in business letters or an address;

                            Dear Sirs:

                            Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen:

    • A colon is used between the chapters and verse numbers of Holy Books (Bible, Quran) in reference using. Arabic numerals, and also between the place of publication and publisher’s name in bibliographical reference or footnotes:

                                        Genesis 12 : 3 – 5 .

                                        Delhi: Devastate Publications, 1988.

    • A colon is used between hours and minutes representing clock time:

                                        It was 9 : 35 a.m. which it started raining.

    • Inverted commas are used to enclose all the direct speech or quotations:

                                        Ahmed said, “It is a fine morning.”

    • Inverted commas are used to enclose the names of ships

                Darwin boarded the “Beagle” to sail to distant islands in search of undiscovered species of life.

    • Inverted commas are used to enclose titles of literary or other works:

                            He read aloud Wilde’s poem “The Ballad of Reading Goal”.

    • Inverted commas are used to enclose technical or unfamiliar terms or such words as are used to convey unusual meanings:-

                 The “invisible” government of the U.S.A. was held responsible for precipitating crisis in the South Vietnam.

    1. QUOTATION MARKS, SINGLE [ ‘    ’]
    •            Single quotation marks are used to indicate a quotation within a quotation:

    The examiner said, “The boy sitting next to me said ‘ Be careful, the invigilator is watching us ; and I told him to be quiet.”

    1. THE APOSTROPHE     [   ‘ ]
    • An apostrophe is used to denote the possessive case of singular nouns and those plural nouns which do not end in ‘S’ or ‘Z’ sound. The sign of apostrophe comes between such nouns and the ending ‘S’ :    

                            Ali’s books ; keat’s  poems ;  Women’s magazines.

    • In case of plural nouns ending in ‘S’ or ‘Z’ sound, it appears at the end of the such nouns ;

                            Foxes’ tails.

                            “Beaux’  Stratagem” is a Restoration comedy.

    • An apostrophe is used to denote plurals of figures, letters, and signs;

                He got three A’s in his annual test.

    • An apostrophe is used to indicate an omission of a letter or letters or figures fro a date.

                ‘tis (it is ); Don’t  (Do not) ; ‘gainst  (against) ; ‘84    ( 1984) ; I’ll  (I will).

    1. THE HYPHEN [  –  ]
    •            The hyphen is used to join different parts of a compound word:

                                        Ex-President ; X-ray equipment :

                                        Up-to-the- last-minute information; door-to-door

                                        Survey ; Self-exiled poet ;

                                        Drive-in restaurant ; Dark-green shade.

    • The hyphen is used between letters or syllables of a single word to indicate stuttering, stuttering, sobbing or halting expression in speech:

                            a-a-ah ; s-s sun-sun-Sunday

    • The hyphen is used to indicate the division of a word between lines:

    A word of two or more syllables is divided between lines according to pronounceable syllables.

    1. THE DASH [-   ]
    • The dash is used to indicate an abrupt suspension of the sense, a sudden change in construction and also a faltering in speech:

    When he saw her – and what a beauty she was! – he fell in love with her at first sight.

    • The dash is used between extreme dates, numbers to indicate their link and


                Karachi –Dacca flight (Karachi to Dacca)

                Pages 41 – 48 are missing (All pages from No. 41 to and including No.       48).

                The Decade of Development 1958 – 68.


    These marks are used to set off a word, phrase, sentence or numeral which is inserted by way of comment, hesitation, translation etc.:

                                        The coming year (1969) brought another military revolution.

                                        Eros (Cupid) is the god of love.

     13. The Slash [/]

    Slash is  often employed to differentiate between two terms such as “he/she”, “period/full-stop” etc. They are commonly used in place of the words “or” or “and.” They can also used in abbreviations (i.e., S/T, in/out, and/or). Another use of the slash is to separate verses of poetry when they are written in a text:I have a spelling checker,/It came with my PC./It plane lee marks four my revue/Miss steaks aye can knot sea.

    14. The Ellipsis[…]

    They are used when we are going to omit some words or not writing complete sentence e.g.  Sil and Gil are two friends, they lived in a …, my mother was a doctor, she loved me very much…., i love my parents especially my father because….




    EXERCISE – 1

    Put “a”, “an” or, “the”    in the blanks:-


    1. I am ——– student; he is ————- author.
    2. ———– students who are present here are all my friends.
    3. Is he —————- lawyer?
    4. We shall be staying here for ———- day or two.
    5. ——— idiot boy with me is ———– servant.
    6. It is ———–best film of —————- year.
    7. She bought ————- watch, and then went to ———- station.
    8. ————- more you work, ——better will be your result.
    9. ————- hour ago we met in —————- hotel.
    10. ————- horse is ———– fast – running animal.
    11. ————- Indus is ———– biggest river in Pakistan.
    12. Chaucer has written ———- Canterbury Tales.
    13. We were surprised to meet —- Nawab and ———officer of the government.
    14. He works like ————- soldier and reads like ————– scholar.
    15. They help ———– poor and ——– sick.
    16. It is as big ——–city as London.
    17. She possesses ———- house, ———– shop and ——— car.
    18. ———– cement which are have used is of ——- fine quality.
    19. The people saw ——– tiger and ——— hunter in —– forest where they had gone.
    20. Will ———- college play —– match against —– university.
    21. They received ———- telegram in ——– university.
    22. I met —– Arab on ———- road.
    23. We bought ——— new shirt and ——– pair of shoes from market.
    24. ——– doctor told ——- patient that he could easily cure him.
    25. ——– E terprise ( a ship) sailed over —– Pacific to reach Britain.
    26. He lives in ————- small house near ———main bazaar.
    27. She is ————–citizen of Pakistan.
    28. ———- higher the job, ———- greater——— effort.
    29. They told ——— story which was —- most surprising I had ever heard.
    30. It was ——— extremely difficult task for me to accomplish (finish successfully).



    1. a, an. 2.         the.      3.         a.                     4.         a.         5.         the.
    2. the, the. 7.         a, the   8.         the, the.           9.         an, the              (or a )
    3. the, a. 11.       the, the  12.     the                   13.       the ( or the) , an (or the)
    4. a, a. 15.       the, the  16.     a.                     17.       a,a,a.    18.       the, a.
    5. a (or the), a (or the), the. 20.       the, the .          21.      a. the   22.       an, the
    6. a,a, the. 24.       the, the            25.       the, the            26.       a, the.
    7. a. 28.       the,the the.      29.       a, the. 30.       an.