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Learning Resource Centre Guides: Punctuation

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Capital Letters ABC Full Stops . . .
Commas , , ,
Question Marks ??? Explanation Marks !!! Speech Marks " "
Semicolons ;;;
Colons :::
Apostrophes ' ' "


Capital letters  A  B C                                                                                                                         

  • start a sentence
  • the pronoun ‘I’
  • begin a name

For example:      I am going to visit Jocelyn in Tauranga.

                       I, Jocelyn, Tauranga


Full stops   .   .   .                                                                                                                                 

  • show abbreviations
  • end a sentence

For example:      Dr. Spock visited hospitals in the U.S.A. during summer.

Commas   ,   ,   ,                                                                                                                                  

  • separate items in a list
  • indicate a pause in a sentence

For example:      Some say the earth will end in ice, wind, flood and fire.

Note:                 No comma before ‘and’ in a list.

                        Even though my grandmother is ninety, she still enjoys a daily gin and tonic.


Question marks   ?   ?   ?                                                                                                                    

  • indicate a question is being asked
  • take the place of a full stop

For example:      Why do you keep texting me the same message?

                             Could we please drop in at Jacob’s house?


Exclamation marks   !   !   !                                                                                                                

  • indicate a loud voice (anger, surprise, warning)
  • take the place of a full stop

For example:      “Get out of my sight!

                        “Fire!  Run!


Speech marks (sometimes called quotation marks)    “             ”                                                    

  • sit either side of whatever is spoken
  • sit either side of quoted material

For example:      My mother always said, Don’t wash your hair and then go outside.  You’ll catch a cold”.

                       What do you think of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code?


Note:       In New Zealand, the full stops, question marks and exclamation marks sit outside the speech (quotation) marks.


Semicolons   ;   ;   ;                                                                                                                             

  • indicate a long pause separating two related clauses

For example:      My mother stays up late every night; she is afraid that she will miss out on something.


Colons   :   :   :                                                                                                                                     

  • show a list is coming next

For example:      Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy now itemizes:








Apostrophes   ’  ’  ’                                                                                                                             

  • indicate ownership – the fireman’s hat

                                  the student’s backpack

                                  the men’s room

                                  six weeks’ time


  • indicate missing letter(s) –  We mustn’t laugh

                                           I’d like to see Elton John



Further Learning Centre Handouts related to this topic:


Punctuation Instructions last updated 4/07/11