Understand the Importance of Punctuation Marks and Know How to Use Them Properly

Punctuation marks aren’t really complicated compared with English words. Each punctuation has a clear and specific purpose and usage that you can’t mistake one from the other, unlike words that can be subjective and have tons of alternatives and modifications. This article will give you a clear-cut guide to understand the importance of punctuation marks and know how to use them properly.

First, a definition. Punctuation marks are symbols you use to make your sentences and ideas clear and easy to decipher. They help group thoughts and express emotions and intentions. There are several punctuations in the English language, and the five most commonly used ones are the period, comma, question mark, exclamation point, and quotation marks.

Related Article: The Difference between Who and Whom

Period (.)

The period or full stop (.) (never call it a dot): Use a period to end a statement or command.

Today is Wednesday and time to visit your best friend.

Come on time and bring some snacks.

Hello, buddy, come in.


(Remember, a command can stand as a one-word sentence. Saying “Enter” actually means, “You may enter now.”)

Other times you use a period:

  1. After an abbreviation: Mr., Mrs., Dr. (but not after an acronym: NASA, NATO, YMCA)
  2. After an initial: C.S. Lewis, H.G. Wells, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  3. As a decimal point: 3.50 meters, $25.80, 72.5˚F
  4. When using an ellipsis (three periods). Use an ellipsis when omitting some words in a quotation.

“Come and get your fill … and don’t forget to leave some for others.”

If you omitted the words at the end of a sentence, place a full stop after the ellipses (meaning you should see four periods).

“My best friend took home a lot of stuff…. I love having him around.”

Related Article: How to Use Metaphors and Similes when Comparing

Comma (,)

The comma (,): Use a comma to separate words, phrases, or clauses in a series.

My best friend brought some towels, caps, and water bottles for the game.

I told him I will bring some tennis balls, prepare the score sheet, and make sure our parents will come and watch us play.

Other common uses of a comma:

a) Between two independent clauses that are joined by a coordinating conjunction:

John said he will come early to join us, but he failed to keep his promise.

The game was much more hard-fought than we thought, and the viewers were quite surprised.

b) To enclose an explanatory word or phrase inside a sentence:

Our coach, a seasoned tennis player, was very proud of how we played.

Our opponent’s top score, 45 points, came as a surprise.

c) In addresses, dates, and numerical values (separating ones, tens, hundreds, thousands, and so on):

45 Lincoln Street, Willmar, Minnesota 56342, U.S.A.

August 20, 2020

$4,265, 100

Related Article: Quantifiers: How to Properly Use ‘Much,’ ‘Many,’ and ‘A Lot of’

Question Mark (?)

The question mark (?): Use a question mark when asking a direct question.

Are you coming again next week to watch the rematch?

Did they announce the final score?

Note: Do not use a question mark after an indirect question.

Mark and Peter asked John whether he enjoyed every minute of the game? (Wrong. This should end with a period.)

The referee asked me what I should do after committing a foul? (Wrong. This should end with a period.)

Do not use multiple question marks to express strong emotion. This is just wrong.

Are you really, really coming???

Did we lose again???

Related Article: How To Keep a Conversation Going

Exclamation Point (!)

The exclamation point (!): Use the exclamation point when expressing strong emotion. It may be used before a word, phrase, or sentence, but only sparingly, and never in academic writing.

Run! Don’t let them catch you again.

Wow, that was quite a serve!

Win this one for the team, please!

Related Article: 4 Helpful Strategies to Help You Think in English

Quotation Marks (“ ”)

Quotation marks (“ ”) (Remember, they always come in pairs. The first one is the open quotation, and the second is the close quotation mark): Use quotation marks before and after a direct quotation.

“This is one of the best tennis tournaments I have ever watched,” said one of the spectators.

“Make sure you jump as high as you can,” the coach said, “and never, ever give up.”

John gave me a wink and said, “Good job, mate, let’s do it again next week.”

Note: When punctuating a long direct quotation that will take up more than one paragraph, place the closing quotation after the last paragraph only.

Also: Use single quotation marks to punctuate a direct quotation within a direct quotation.

John explained, “Eddie came up to us and said, ‘You won’t be as lucky next week.’”

Related Article: How to Use Quotation Marks Properly


These are the five most commonly used punctuation marks, and making a bonus appearance is the apostrophe (‘). You see the apostrophe in contractions and possessive pronouns. Check this out to better understand when to use and not use the apostrophe (please place a link to my other blog: Common grammar mistakes non-native speakers commit when writing in English).

I am Edwin Estioko and I have years of experience in writing and editing for international audience. With a bachelor's degree in English and master's degree in Ministry, I am a published author of children's books and an elementary English textbook.