Any expression or statement is created orally even if it’s not pronounced. And any spoken language is accompanied by some pauses or intonation that convey emotional and volitional state of the speaker, express his or her attitude, give a special semantic connotation and divide the speech stream into some parts according to the context. As the letters can’t convey the speaker’s intonation the punctuation marks, such as colon, full stop, comma, dash, question marks, semicolon, exclamation and etc. are used in writing form, which helps to make an understanding of the written easier.
Definition of the Term
This term defines one of the most essential aspects of any written language that gives a certain connotation to the sentence and the idea of the whole text itself. In other words, it is a special system of signs and symbols that shows the reader not only the structure of the sentence, but also how this exact sentence needs to be read correctly, so that your content is always understandable and effective.
The necessity of the correct marks for a sentence is obvious as their wrong usage or placement in a text can fully change its whole meaning and even turn it into a nonsense.
English punctuation is characterized by two complementary sides: the phonological aspect, which is linked to the pronounce of the sentence, and the grammatical one, which is connected with the structure of the sentence.
No doubt, with the birth of the Internet and youth slang and a growing number of social networks, the fundamental aspects of putting commas, dashes, colons and lots of others are ignored by many of us. Nevertheless, if you are going to write some important papers, documents or just set an international language exam, then a correct and literate knowledge of English commas, periods etc. is a must!
The Basic Laws of Ordinary Sentence Marks
The rules mentioned below will help you to apply most often used marks of punctuation correctly when composing in English.
Capitalization. Any sentence should always be started with a capital letter. Moreover, a capital letter should occur at the start of proper nouns (the names of people, places, special things), titles (the names of works of art, like books, plays, movies, also institutions, geographical areas etc.) and acronyms (an abbreviation from the initial components in a phrase or a word).
e.g. Laura came in the USA last summer to make sure her brother is ok.
End-of-Sentence Marks. Any sentence with the name declarative (the one, which describes or states the fact) should contain at least one mark – the last one at the very end of the sentence, also called as a period or in other words – a full stop. In case your sentence denotes a question, you know what is stated in the end. If the sentence suggests a strong emphasis or an excitement, the exclamation point, also “a shout mark” should end any sentence.
e.g. What was done to protect the society?
Such a beautiful day!
Colons and Semicolons. Colons are the easiest punctuation forms in English as basically they are used to introduce the list or to separate certain parts from a title. Concerning semicolons, they usually separate a complex series of items and two related but independent clauses.
e.g. There were only three options: to say the truth, to lie, or to keep silent.
We stayed on the outskirts; the weather looked promising.
Commas. Commas are naturally the most popular mark in English. They indicate a pause or a break when listing three or more items in a sentence, two or more adjectives describing a certain noun, setting apart a quotation, when writing a date or a location in the sentence, making a personal address, separating an introductory phrase or two independent clauses.
e.g. “Please, check your cash account,” said the manager.
He is originally from San Diego, California.
Pay attention that a wrong placement of comma can considerably change the meaning of the sentence. Consider following examples:
e.g. Let us cook, mom.
Let us cook mom.
At first, mom is being asked to help children. However, in the second option, mom has become the dish to eat. As you see, the absence of comma has the meaning of the whole sentence, which conveyed it into a complete nonsense.
Hyphens and Dashes. Hyphens (a short line) are used in language to connect separate words (numbers, jobs and so on) or when adding a prefix to a word. Dashes (a long line) makes a strong break or interruption in the statement.
e.g. The newspaper reports about ex-president of Germany.
Leave him alone – he had been through a difficult period.
Slashes. Use the slash when indicating the word “or”/”and” between two choices if it’s appropriate, and when denoting line breaks in poetry or rhymes.
e.g. When registering you will need your passport and/or your birth certificate.
Parentheses, Braces and Brackets. Parentheses enclose an additional information or denote some personal comments. Brackets are mostly used for clarifications or editorial comments. Braces are rarely used in written language, they are more common in science and mathematics.
e.g. The team won a final competition. (It was exiting!)
He drove 50 [miles per hour] on the German autobahns.
Quotation or Speech Marks. They are used when marking out the speech or quoting someone else’s speech.
e.g. “Would you like to join our company?”, said Mrs. Jones.
Apostrophe. The apostrophe is used either to indicate possession, or to represent shortened combinations of two words.
e.g. The professor’s speech was impressive.
To sum up, it’s worth mentioning our writing would be clearly impossible without such an amazing tool that helps to understand the implicit meaning without speaking it aloud.
Every sentence should include these essential components to be fulfilled and completely understandable. Commas, colons and semicolons, hyphens and dashes, an apostrophe, slashes, parentheses, brackets and braces are also widely used when appropriate. All these basic signs of English marks demonstrate us that the sentence is finished.
It’s also very crucial to realize the basic rules of the usage and the primary meaning of most often used marks in the written language, so that to produce an understandable and successful piece of writing, and, what is more, to convey the correct message.