Punctuation Marks – What are they, what are they, when are they used

Punctuation marks

What are punctuation marks?

Punctuation marks are certain types of orthographic signs, that is, marks that accompany written language (other than numbers and letters).

This particular class of signs serves to delimit the sentences, paragraphs, and text units that make up its structure, in order to organize the ideas expressed and correctly rank the main and secondary ones.

The punctuation marks, thus, fulfill a logical and syntactic role in the written language, since in the spoken language that role is fulfilled by silences and pauses.

Its main task is to avoid ambiguities that may cloud the understanding of the speech, but also to Full Stop out its special characteristics, such as paragraphs, verbatim quotes, character voices, and so on.

In addition, they allow modulating what is written, that is, controlling the intonation with which it should be read, in order to recompose the subtleties of language from the text.

The oldest document in which punctuation marks are used is the Stela of Mesha, a Moabite king from the 9th century BC.

Today they are present in almost all languages, except those whose tradition replaces them with empty spaces, such as Chinese or Mayan writing.

This is because its spelling concentrates an entire meaning in a single character, so there is no need to actually mark the end of a word or phrase.

In addition, the use of punctuation marks responds to certain fixed, strict rules, necessary to guarantee the complete understanding of the text, and to certain differences in style when writing, that is, to the particular way of doing it of each person.

For example, a person may prefer long sentences with many Full Stops marked by commas, or on the contrary, short sentences separated with semicolons, but in no case can they resist using commas and semicolons with the fixed meaning they have on the tongue.

The punctuation marks in English are the period «. », The comma «,», the semicolon «;», the colon «:», the ellipsis «…», the quotation marks «, the parentheses “()” And square brackets “[]”, exclamation marks “!” and the question mark “?”, the dashes “-” and the dashes “─”. We will study them separately below.

Full Stop

The period is a fundamental sign when writing since it serves to introduce a more or less long pause, depending on the case.

It is usually placed at the end of sentences (sentences, phrases), immediately after the last character is written, without spaces in between.

There are three different types of Full Stop (Purn Viram), which are:

  • Full Stop and followed. Used to separate the phrases and sentences of the same paragraph, after entering it is necessary to give space and start with a capital letter. It is usually understood as a medium pause. For example:

“My father traveled to Greenland. There is nothing there”.

  • Full Stop and aside. Used to end a paragraph, so that after entering it is necessary to start with capital letters and on a different line, according to the indentation rules of the text that is being used. For example:

“… And those were our last days in Greenland.

The next day, we woke up in Paris. The weather was dark and a humid breeze was blowing… ”

  • End Full Stop. Used to mark the absolute end of a text. Logically, nothing comes after him.

In addition to these cases, it is common to use the period after an abbreviation, but in these cases, you continue to write normally after space, without using capital letters or interrupting the line.


The comma Alpviram (,)

Pause briefly in a sentence.

It is used in the following cases:

To separate the elements of an enemy.

Example: He comes to collect the rest of his things: the clothes, the basketball, the camera, the fishing pole, and the Vespa.

To isolate the vocative.

In the sections that interrupt a sentence, to clarify or expand what is said, or to mention the author or work cited.

Eg: All the neighbors, including the third, agreed for once.

To separate grammatically equivalent elements in a sentence.

Example: All of Europe was present: French, Spanish, Italians, Germans, Portuguese, etc.

A comma is written between the place and the date in the headings of the letters.

Example: San Sebastián, November 24, 1965

The two Full Stops

This punctuation mark introduces a pause greater than that of the comma, but less than that of the period, and is used to stop the flow of text and speech, and draw the attention of the reader or the interlocutor to something that follows, and that it will always be closely related to what has been said. It is very common to use to enter verbatim citations.

For example: “They wrap everything from us: shoes, cash, keys.”

Suspensions Full Stops

Always made up of three and only three Full Stops in a row and without spaces between them (…), this sign introduces a long pause that is intended to create suspense, doubt, intrigue or to indicate that there is part of the text that is omitted.

They are used at the end of a sentence, replacing what was not said, marking the moment when silence occurred.

Furthermore, enclosed in parentheses “(…)” indicate an intentional omission in the middle of a textual quotation.

For example: “The truth is that  I don’t know what to say” or “If you say so  “.

The quotation marks

The quotation marks always come in pairs and is used to highlight a word or phrase from the rest of the text, indicating that it is something taken from another source (such as in textual citations), or that it is a familiar, vulgar, popular, or outside use. of the ordinary, and even sometimes that it is an ironic twist of the author.

English quotation marks (“”) are commonly used, but there are also angles (“”), and they can sometimes be combined, for example, when there is a quote within a quote.

Another possibility, when using the English quotation marks, is to distinguish between the single (”) and the double (“”) to mark the levels of the quotation.

Some examples are below:

  • In my house they call me  Chucho , but my name is Jesús.
  • The spokesperson said that they will not be held responsible  for what happens tomorrow. 
  • As stated in his book Juan Gutiérrez:  to be wise we must follow Voltaire’s maxim of  cultivating our garden  constantly .

The parentheses and brackets

These punctuation marks also always come in pairs, and serve to create subsections or clauses within the text, separating what is between them from the rest.

So that it can be read separately, often as an explanation, annotation, or optional data, it is In other words, it can either be read or it can be omitted.

As with quotation marks, the use of parentheses “()” and square brackets “[]” tend to alternate when there are clarifications within the clarifications, which is common in many textual citations.

Also, square brackets are often used to indicate the addition of a text, generally to facilitate reading, within a verbatim quote.

Some examples are:

  • Yesterday we bought two games ( board, not video ) to entertain the children.
  • Mario Levrero ( Montevideo, 1940-2004 ) was an important writer for his time.
  • The newly discovered species ( whose scientific name was given by Dr. Goliatnizk and is due to mysterious reasons ) is in the possession of the appropriate scientists.

The dash and the line

These punctuation marks are distinguished from each other in their length since they both consist of a line at the middle of the written text.

The short line (-) is the hyphen, used to separate words when the space in a line runs out, or to separate certain specialized or combined terms, such as “artistic-literary” or “physical-chemical”, for example.

On the other hand, the long line or dash (  ) is used to insert paragraphs, instead of commas or parentheses, or to introduce dialogues in a narrative. For example:

  • -Who is there? Said Pedro.
  • The important thing in an interview – that is, the most important thing – is not the appearance, but what is said.

The ellipsis (…)


They suppose an interruption in the sentence or an imprecise ending. They are used in the following cases:

At the end of an enumeration when it has the same value as the word and so on.

Ex: Everything bad was yet to come: the annexation of Czechoslovakia, the surprise assault on Poland, the attack on Russia, the Holocaust …

To express a moment of doubt.

Example: I had an affair with the violin teacher and with the nanny, with an officer and with an actor, and I wasn’t even 16 years old… Am I not boring them?

To consent to an unfinished and suspended statement.

Ex .: As for the other day, it was something unexpected, very violent, very unpleasant …

When a part of a verbatim quote is omitted.

Example: I learned the first lines of Don Quixote at school: “In a place in La Mancha whose name I don’t want to remember …”


They are a double spelling sign [] that, in certain contexts, is used analogously to parentheses that incorporate additional or explanatory information. They are written glued to the first and last characters of the period that they frame, and separated by a space from the element that precedes or follows them.

They are used to isolate when a foreign text is cited in quotation marks, the comments and clarifications of the person who is reproducing the quote.
Brackets are used when within a statement that goes between parentheses it is necessary to introduce some clarification or clarification note.

Auxiliary uses of brackets

In poetry books, an opening bracket is usually placed in front of the last word of a verse when it has not been completely transcribed in a single line and ends, aligned to the right, on the next line.

  • In the transcriptions of texts, they are used to mark any interpolation or modification in the original text.
  • In bibliographic references, any data that does not appear in the source is enclosed in square brackets.
  • They are used to enclose phonetic transcriptions.
  • Three periods between brackets are used to indicate in the transcription of a text that a fragment of the original has been omitted.


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