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They are also used to indicate meanings and to indicate the unusual or dubious status of a word. The ellipsis is most commonly represented by three periods. The ellipsis is used in writing or printing to indicate an omission, especially of letters or words. Ellipses are frequently used within quotations to jump from one phrase to another, omitting unnecessary words that do not interfere with the meaning.

Students writing research papers or newspapers quoting parts of speeches will often employ ellipsis to avoid copying lengthy text that is not needed. There are a few differences between punctuation in British and American English. The following charts details some of those differences:. Becoming familiar with the basic punctuation marks in the English language will allow you to express yourself better in your writing. Punctuation marks will also make your sentences clearer and more understandable to the reader. By continuing, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

Please set a username for yourself. People will see it as Author Name with your public flash cards. Sentence Endings Three of the fourteen punctuation marks are appropriate for use as sentence endings. As a sentence ender: Jane and Jack went to the market. After an abbreviation: Her son, John Jones Jr. When did Jane leave for the market? Within dialogue: "Holy cow!

To emphasize a point: My mother-in-law's rants make me furious! Comma, Semicolon, and Colon The comma, semicolon, and colon are often misused because they all can indicate a pause in a series. Direct address: Thanks for all your help, John. Separation of two complete sentences: We went to the movies, and then we went out to lunch.

How to Use a Dash

Separating lists or elements within sentences: Suzi wanted the black, green, and blue dress. John was hurt; he knew she only said it to upset him. He was planning to study four subjects: politics, philosophy, sociology, and economics. The second is between independent clauses when the second explains the first, similar to a semicolon: I didn't have time to get changed: I was already late. The third use of a colon is for emphasis: There was one thing she loved more than any other: her dog. A colon also has non-grammatical uses in time, ratio, business correspondence and references.

Dash and the Hyphen Two other common punctuation marks are the dash and hyphen. En dash: Twice as long as a hyphen, the en dash is a symbol -- that is used in writing or printing to indicate a range, connections or differentiations, such as or Princeton-New York trains. Em dash: Longer than the en dash, the em dash can be used in place of a comma, parenthesis, or colon to enhance readability or emphasize the conclusion of a sentence. For example, She gave him her answer No! Whether you put spaces around the em dash or not is a style choice. Just be consistent. Brackets, Braces, and Parentheses Brackets , braces, and parentheses are symbols used to contain words that are a further explanation or are considered a group.

He [Mr. Jones] was the last person seen at the house. John and Jane who were actually half brother and sister both have red hair.

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Apostrophe, Quotation Marks and Ellipsis The final three punctuation forms in English grammar are the apostrophe , quotation marks, and ellipsis. Examples of the apostrophe in use include: Omission of letters from a word: I've seen that movie several times. She wasn't the only one who knew the answer.

Possessive case: Sara's dog bit the neighbor. Plural for lowercase letters: Six people were told to mind their p's and q's. Single quotation marks ' ' are used most frequently for quotes within quotes. Marie told the teacher, "I saw Marc at the playground, and he said to me 'Bill started the fight,' and I believed him. Omission of words: She began to count, "One, two, three, four…" until she got to 10, then went to find him. Within a quotation: When Newton stated, "An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion British vs.

By , Aldus Manutius the Younger was able to state that the main object of punctuation was the clarification of syntax. By the 19th century, punctuation in the western world had evolved "to classify the marks hierarchically, in terms of weight". The stop point out, with truth, the time of pause A sentence doth require at ev'ry clause. At ev'ry comma, stop while one you count; At semicolon, two is the amount; A colon doth require the time of three ; The period four , as learned men agree.

The use of punctuation was not standardised until after the invention of printing. According to the edition of The American Printer , the importance of punctuation was noted in various sayings by children such as:. Charles the First walked and talked Half an hour after his head was cut off. Charles the First walked and talked; Half an hour after, his head was cut off. In a 19th-century manual of typography , Thomas MacKellar writes:. Shortly after the invention of printing, the necessity of stops or pauses in sentences for the guidance of the reader produced the colon and full point.


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In process of time, the comma was added, which was then merely a perpendicular line, proportioned to the body of the letter. These three points were the only ones used until the close of the fifteenth century, when Aldo Manuccio gave a better shape to the comma, and added the semicolon; the comma denoting the shortest pause, the semicolon next, then the colon, and the full point terminating the sentence.

The marks of interrogation and admiration were introduced many years after. The introduction of electrical telegraphy with a limited set of transmission codes [19] and typewriters with a limited set of keys influenced punctuation subtly. For example, curved quotes and apostrophes were all collapsed into two characters ' and ".

The hyphen , minus sign , and dashes of various widths were collapsed into a single character -, sometimes repeated as -- to represent a long dash. The spaces of different widths available to professional typesetters were generally replaced by a single full-character width space, with typefaces monospaced. In some cases a typewriter keyboard did not include an exclamation point! These simplifications were carried forward into digital writing, with teleprinters and the ASCII character set essentially supporting the same characters as typewriters.

Treatment of whitespace in HTML discouraged the practice in English prose of putting two full spaces after a full stop, since a single or double space would appear the same on the screen. Some style guides now discourage double spaces, and some electronic writing tools automatically collapse double spaces to single.

The full traditional set of typesetting tools became available with the advent of desktop publishing and more sophisticated word processors. Despite the widespread adoption of character sets like Unicode that support traditionally typeset punctuation, writing forms like text messages tend to use the simplified ASCII style of punctuation, with the addition of new non-text characters like emoji.

Informal text speak tends to drop punctuation when not needed, including some ways that would be considered errors in more formal writing. In the computer era, punctuation characters were recycled for use in programming languages and data representation as in URLs. Due to its use in email and Twitter handles, the at sign went from an obscure character mostly used by grocers and not professional typesetters to a very common character in common use for both technical routing and an abbreviation for "at". There are two major styles of punctuation in English: British or American. These two styles differ mainly in the way in which they handle quotation marks, particularly in conjunction with other punctuation marks.

In British English, punctuation such as periods and commas are placed outside the closing quotation mark; in American English, however, punctuation is placed inside the closing quotation mark. This rule varies for other punctuation marks; for example, American English follows the British English rule when it comes to semicolons, colons, question marks, and exclamation points.

Other languages of Europe use much the same punctuation as English. The similarity is so strong that the few variations may confuse a native English reader. Quotation marks are particularly variable across European languages. In French of France , the signs : ;? In Canada , this is only the case for :.

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It is still sometimes used in calligraphy. Armenian uses several punctuation marks of its own. This is a modern innovation; pre-modern Arabic did not use punctuation. Originally, Sanskrit had no punctuation. Punctuation was not used in Chinese , Japanese , and Korean writing until the adoption of punctuation from the West in the late 19th and early 20th century.

In unpunctuated texts, the grammatical structure of sentences in classical writing is inferred from context. Its origin is unclear, but could be a remnant of the British Raj. For example, Rs. Thai did not use punctuation until the adoption of punctuation from the West in the 20th century. Blank spaces are more frequent than full stops or commas. Further information: Armenian punctuation , Chinese punctuation , Hebrew punctuation , Japanese punctuation and Korean punctuation. An international patent application was filed, and published in under World Intellectual Property Organization WIPO number WO, [24] for two new punctuation marks: the "question comma" and the "exclamation comma".