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Language is like a train in motion and the marks of punctuation are like its wayside stations. Punctuation is an art. It is the art of dividing a piece of writing by points or marks to make its sense clear. Even while speaking, we pause or stop at certain places for the sake of clarity. In written composition, these pauses or stops are indicated by means of certain signs which are called marks of punctuation. These marks of punctuation divide a passage into sentences and clauses and bring out their relation with one another. They tell us where to pause and for how long. The following are the principal marks of punctuation:

1. Full Stop (.)
2. Comma (,)
3. Semicolon(;)
4. Colon (:)
5. Sign of Interrogation (?)
6. Sign of Exclamation (!)
7. Hyphen (-)
8. Inverted Commas (“ ”)
9. Parenthesis or Brackets ()
10. Apostrophe (‘)
11. Capital Letters (CAPITALS)

1.Full Stop (.): The full stop is the longest pause. It shows that the sense is complete and hence the sentence can be closed. It is used :
(i) At the end of Assertive and Imperative Sentences.
(ii) The Full Stop is optionally used after initials and abbreviations.

2.Comma (,): The comma is the shortest pause in the sentence. It is used:
(i) To separate three or more than three words of the same part of speech in a sentence.
(ii) To separate pairs of words joined by and.
(iii) Before and after a vocative.
(iv) Between Nouns and Pronouns in apposition.
(v) To separate an inductor or transitional word or phrase.
(vi) Optionally used to separate Noun Clauses before the verb.
(vii) Optionally used to separate different clauses in a sentence.
(viii) To indicate the omission of a word, usually a ver.
(ix) Before and after parenthetical remarks.
(x) To separate words like yes, no, please.
(xi) After each of the Prepositions referring to single Noun or pronoun.
(xii) To separate a non-restrictive Adjective Clause from the Principal Clause.
(xiii) After figures of date and address.
(xiv) After the salutation in a letter or application.
(xv) After the ending or subscription of letters and applications.
(xvi) To separate the Reporting Verbs from Reported Speech.

3.Semicolon (;): The semicolon indicates a longer pause than that of Comma. It s used:
(i) To separate long Coordinate Clauses having different subjects.
(ii) To separate Coordinate Clauses referring to causes, results, conclusions and inferences.
(iii) Before words and phrases which are used to introduce an explanation, example or illustration.

4.Colon (:): The Colon is a longer pause than the Semicolon. It is used:
(i) To give a list of details.
(ii) To introduce an additional remark or statement throwing light on the preceding one.
(iii) To introduce something that follows next. In such cases, the Colon is usually followed by the Dash.
(iv) To introduce a direct speech or statement, especially in a dialogue form.

5.The Sign of Interrogation (?): The sign of Interrogation or Question Mark is used:
(i) At the end of the sentence containing a direct question.
(ii) To show that a sentence with the form of a statement is meant as a question.
(iii) To show doubt.
(iv) In informal or humorous writing?? or ?! might be used to show great surprise.

6.The Sign of Exclamation (!): It is used:
(i) After an interjection, an exclamatory phrase and an exclamatory sentence, expressing the feeling of joy, sorrow, wonder or surprise.
(ii) After poetic form of address or after an emphatic nominative address.
(iii) After optative sentences.
(iv) To show that a speaker is shouting, or that a noise a loud.
(v) At the end of a forceful order.
(vi) In informal or humorous writing, !! or ?! are sometimes used to show strong emotion or loud sound.

7.The Hyphen (-): The Hyphen is a much shorter line than a Dash. It is used:
(i) To separate the parts of a compound word.
(ii) To connect the parts of a compound number.
(iii) To divide a word into two parts at the end of a line, when the word cannot be accommodated in the same line.

8.The Inverted Commas or Quotation Marks (“ “): It is used:
(i) To report the exact words of a speaker in the Direct form of Speech or a quotation.
(ii) To indicate the titles of magazines, stories, poems, films, etc.

9.The Parentheses or Brackets () []: The Parentheses or Brackets are used:
(i) To separate a remark, phrase or even a sentence which has no grammatical connection with the main sentence or passage.
(ii) To explain an item which may otherwise be confused.

10.The Apostrophe (‘): The Apostrophe is used:
(i) To indicate the Possessive Case of Nouns.
(ii) The Apostrophe may be used to indicate the plurals of nouns only with initial letters.
(iii) To denote some missing letter or letters from a word.

11.Capital Letters (CAPITALS): A Capital letter is used:
(i) To begin the first word of every sentence.
(ii) To begin the first word of every line of poetry.
(iii) To begin a proper Noun.
(iv) To begin a word indicating a personification.
(v) To begin the names of days and months.
(vi) For the Pronoun ‘I’ and Interjection ‘O’.
(vii) To begin all Nouns and pronouns referring to God.
(viii) To begin all ranks, titles, degrees, designations, languages, subjects, religions, races, castes, parties, institutions and associations.

Sample Usage


1.Full Stop:
(i) Man is a social animal.
(ii) Dr. S.D. Sharma, M.Sc., B.Sc. (Hons.)

2.The Comma:
(i) She is intelligent, witty, beautiful and brave.
(ii) Death comes to the rich and the poor, the high and the low, the great and the small.
(iii) I didn’t do it, papa.
(iv) Sita, the wife of Rama, was the daughter of Janaka.
(v) Well, you have been selected.
(vi) That he has stolen my book, is a fact.
(vii) She ran, she fell, and she died.
(viii) You bought a car; I, a scooter.
(ix) Goodbye, friends.

3.The Semicolon:
(i) Reading makes a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.
(ii) He was lazy; therefore he failed.
(iii) He is suffering from a terrible disease; that is, cancer.

4.The Colon:
(i) Romantic poets of the younger generation are: Byron, Shelley and Keats.
(ii) Face is the Index of mind: keep it clean.
(iii) The following students have been fined:
Rakesh Verma, Vinod Kumar and Mehar Mittal.

5.The Sign of Interrogation:
(i) What is your name?
(ii) I asked him why he was late.
(iii) I beg your pardon?
(iv) Is he completely mad?

6.The Sign of Exclamation:
(i) This song is great!
(ii) Spirit of Delight!
(iii) May God bless you!
(iv) Bang! She slammed the door.
(v) “Help!!”

7.The Hyphen:
(i) Co-operation, co-education, co-ordination, cheque-book etc.
(ii) Fifty-five, twenty-seven, one-fifth etc.

8.The Inverted Commas or Quotation Marks:
(i) The traveler said, “do you want one in which you can spend the night?”
(ii) I was watching ‘Match of the Day’.

9.The Parentheses or Brackets:
(i) The old man (he is already the father of five children) wants to marry again.
(ii) My father told him that he (father) was not feeling well.

10.The Apostrophe:
(i) Ram’s sister is Sham’s wife.
(ii) Many S.P.’s and D.C.’s were present there.
(iii) I’ll never see his face again.

11.Capital Letters:
(i) Man is mortal.
(ii) Byron, Shelley, Keats etc.
(iii) Lead Kindly Light.
(iv) The President of India.

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