1. What is a semicolon?  Here’s a semicolon……..  ;          It is used to join two complete sentences which are very closely related in meaning.  Example:  Mark my words;  you’ll learn a lot in her language arts class!  In this compound sentence, the two pieces need each other, because without the explanation, “you’ll learn a lot in her language arts class,” the statement “mark my words” wouldn’t make any sense.  The two connected sentences are depending on one another.
  2. What is a colon?  It’s this thing………   :         It is used after a salutation in a block or semi-block letter.  It can also be used between numbers, to indicate the time of day.  Sometimes it is used to introduce a list.  Example:  The following authors have eBooks available for purchase: Rick Riordan, Nicholas Sparks, Suzanne Collins, Becca Fitzpatrick, and Lauren Kate .  Another example:   Dear Webmaster:    Or Dear Customer Service Manager:  And don’t forget this:  It’s 9:12 a.m.
  3. What is a hyphen?  It looks like this………….  –         It can be used to connect compound words, numbers, and letter-word combinations.  Here are some examples:  man-eating shark, twentyfirst, and Tbone steak.  Many of these compound words can be found in the dictionary, but often compound adjectives (like three-dimensional) are not found in the dictionary. You can also use hyphens to break a word at the margin. Place the hyphen between syllables.
  4. What are parentheses?  They look like this…..  ( )    Parentheses are used to include helpful explanations in a sentence.  Here’s an example:  Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer (published by Little, Brown and Company in 2005), has been translated into 37 different languages.
  5. What are brackets? They look like parentheses, but more square…….. [ ]      They tend to be used for technical purposes, like when a website’s URL needs to be included. Here’s an example:  I found my used Wii games on Craigslist [http://www.craigslist.org/about/sites], so if you want to get one for yourself, I’d look there.  As a proofreading symbol, we insert them, just like we do with parentheses.

    a list of punctuation marks for English language learners

    Image: iClipart

  6. What is an exclamation point?  Here’s one…..   !    An exclamation point should only be used for words that are shouted.  However, if a question is shouted, avoid using an exclamation point, and use a question mark instead.  Here’s an example:  Aren’t you going to run? Get out of there before it explodes!**
  7. What is a question mark?  Here’s a question mark……    ?    It is used whenever questions are asked.  Here’s an example:  Who is your favorite Jonas brother?
  8. What is a period?  A period looks like this…..       .       A period ends a sentence, abbreviation, or initial.  These are some examples:  H. G.  Wells was an early science fiction writer.  Mr. Wells was famous for his novel,  War of the Worlds. Another example: I used to live at 127 N.E. Hwy. 99, Vancouver, Washington. Note the abbreviations for Mister, North, East, and the first and middle names of the author.
  9. What is an ellipsis? When you’re quoting someone, but you want to skip a few words of the original quotation, drop an ellipsis into your quote, like this: According to the 2002 edition of World Book Encyclopedia, “The Food and Drug Administration… requires that cosmetics be safe and properly labeled” for the American public (“Cosmetics”).
  10. What is a comma?  This is a comma………   ,   For more on commas, see my page entitled, Comma Rules.

** Here’s another example that uses a shouted question:  He did what?  No way!


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