Punctuation is used to create sense, clarity and stress in sentences. You use punctuation marks to structure and organise your writing.
You can quickly see why punctuation is important if you try and read this sentence which has no punctuation at all:
perhaps you dont always need to use commas periods colons etc to make sentences clear when i am in a hurry tired cold lazy or angry i sometimes leave out punctuation marks grammar is stupid i can write without it and dont need it my uncle Harry once said he was not very clever and i never understood a word he wrote to me i think ill learn some punctuation not too much enough to write to Uncle Harry he needs some help
Now let’s see if punctuating it makes a difference!
Perhaps you don’t always need to use commas, periods, colons etc. to make sentences clear. When I am in a hurry, tired, cold, lazy, or angry I sometimes leave out punctuation marks. “Grammar is stupid! I can write without it and don’t need it,” my uncle Harry once said. He was not very clever, and I never understood a word he wrote to me. I think I’ll learn some punctuation – not too much, enough to write to Uncle Harry. He needs some help!
Use the pages in this punctuation section to learn how to make your English clearer and better organised.
The Period, Full Stop or Point
The period (known as a full stop in British English) is probably the simplest of the punctuation marks to use. You use it like a knife to cut the sentences to the required length. Generally, you can break up the sentences using the full stop at the end of a logical and complete thought that looks and sounds right to you.
Mark the end of a sentence which is not a question or an exclamation.
- Rome is the capital of Italy.
- I was born in Australia and now live in Indonesia.
- The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people.
Indicate an abbreviation.
Many abbreviations require a period. Dr, Mr, Mrs, and Ms do not take a period in British English, nor do most abbreviations taken from the first capital letters such as MA, Phd, or CIA. In American English, some of these do require periods or both usages are correct (with and without periods). If you require 100% accuracy in your punctuation, refer to a detailed style guide for the abbreviation usage rules in the variety of English you are using.
- I will arrive between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m.
- We are coming on Fri., Jan. 4.
Often you will see a sentence concluding with three dots. This indicates that only part of the sentence or text has been quoted or that it is being left up to the reader to complete the thought.
- The Lord’s Prayer begins, “Our Father which art in Heaven…'”
- He is always late, but you know how I feel about that…
Period after a single word
Sometimes a single word can form the sentence. In this case you place a fullstop after the word as you would in any other sentence. This is often the case when the subject is understood as in a greeting or a command.
Periods in numbers
Numbers use periods in English to separate the whole number from the decimal. A period used in a number is also called a “decimal point” and it is read “point” unless it refers to money.