Punctuation: Definition, Types & Usage Rules

What Is Punctuation Mark

The punctuation marks are signs or graphic markings that allow the editor to structure a written speech at the time that allows the reader to identify the inflections of the text, ie, the mode of intonation and the necessary breaks to facilitate understanding.

Punctuation Mark
What Is Punctuation Mark

Punctuation marks play an important role in written language, since their correct use allows a coherent and unambiguous understanding of the content of a text.

By means of punctuation marks the texts are structured, ordering and ranking the ideas in main and secondary, which allows the reader a better interpretation, analysis and understanding of the content.

Type of Punctuation marks

The punctuation marks have general rules established to make the correct use of them. However, it is possible for each individual to make particular use of the signs, but always considering the general rules in place.


The period (.) Indicates the pause that occurs at the end of a sentence. After period, it will always be capitalized, except when it appears in an abbreviation. There are three kinds of point:

  • The period and followed : it is used to separate the different sentences that make up a paragraph. After a period and followed you continue to write on the same line.
  • The full stop : separate different paragraphs. After the full stop, the writing must continue on the next line, capitalized and indented.
  • The end point : is the point that closes a text.


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The comma (,) marks a brief pause within a sentence.

  • It is used to separate components of the sentence or phrase, unless it is preceded by some conjugation such as y, e, o, u, ni. For example, “Andrea came home from school, did her homework, took a bath and fell asleep.”
  • It is used to enclose paragraphs or clarifications and to indicate omissions. For example, “If you come, we will wait for you; if not, we leave ”.
  • Separate the integer part of a number from the decimal part. For example, 3.5 km.
  • Conjunctive or adverbial phrases are preceded and followed by a comma. For example, in effect, that is, finally.

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Both points

The colon (:) represents a pause greater than the comma, but less than the period. It is used in the following cases:

  • Before a verbatim quote and as a wake-up call. For example, “The saying goes: better late than never.”
  • Before an enumeration. For example, “The four seasons of the year are: spring, summer, fall and winter.”
  • After the courtesy formulas that head the letters and documents. For example, “Dear teacher:”
  • Between related sentences without nexus when expressing cause – effect or a conclusion. For example, “He lost his job, his house, his car: all for the game.”


The semicolon (;) represents a pause greater than the comma, but less than the period and followed. It is used in the following cases:

  • To separate the elements of an enumeration when it comes to complex expressions that include commas. For example, “Her hair is brown; the green eyes; the nose, upturned ”.
  • Before conjugations (but, although and more), when a long phrase is introduced. For example, “Many years ago I wanted to visit that place; but until the sun today I had not had a chance.”

Suspensives points

The ellipsis (…) are made up of three points in a line and with no space between them. It is used in the following cases:

  • At the end of the open enumerations, with the same value as etcetera. For example, “1, 2, 3, …”.
  • When an expression is left incomplete or on hold. For example, “A few words …”.
  • To express doubts, fear or hesitation.
  • When a verbatim quote, text, or saying is incompletely reproduced. For example, “When Gregorio Samsa woke up (…), he found himself on his bed turned into a monstrous insect” (Kafka, The Metamorphosis ).

Question marks and exclamation marks

The use of question marks (?) Marks the beginning and end of a question asked directly. For example, “What do you want?”

The exclamation or exclamation marks (!) Are used in sentences that express an intense feeling or emotion. For example, “What a failure!”, “Get out of here!” Also, in the interjections, “oh!”, “Oh!”.

It should be noted that the use of double question marks and exclamation marks, that is, open and closed, is exclusive to the Spanish language.

The use of double exclamation and question marks was established by decision of the Royal Academy of the Language in 1754. It was a consequence of the continuous reading confusion derived from the absence of graphic elements that announced the questions or the admiration.

Punctuation and auxiliary marks

Like punctuation marks, auxiliary signs help interpret a text, which creates coherence and allows the reader to gain a better understanding.

Some of the auxiliary signs are hyphen (-), quotation marks (“”), asterisks (*), umlauts (¨), apostrophe (ʼ), parentheses (), and square brackets ([]).


The short dash (-) is used to separate words or to join them, so that it allows to establish a relationship between syllables or words.

When a word does not fit at the end of a line, its syllables are hyphenated and continued on the next line. For example, arma-rio, luce-ro, ra-tonera.

Also, when more than two terms are needed to describe an issue, a hyphen is used. For example, Portuguese-Venezuelan, socio-economic, English-speaking. When a term of this type is standardized, the hyphen tends to be omitted and the first part is assimilated as a prefix. For example, Greco-Latin, can opener, spoiled, etc.

Quotation marks

The quotation marks (“”) are used for two essential functions: the first, to highlight a word or phrase within a text. The second, to quote someone else’s words.


In the Spanish language, the umlaut (¨) is a graphic sign that allows the letter u to be read when, despite being between the consonant g and the semi-open vowels i and e , it must sound. For example: ointment, crankshaft, güiro, linguistics.

In other languages ​​such as German or French, the umlaut modifies the loudness of the vowels according to its own grammatical rules.


The apostrophe (ʼ) in Spanish has several uses. We can list the following:

  • Elide a letter in ancient writing. For example, “D ‘them”.
  • Graphically represent the omission of a syllable that is not pronounced in the colloquial language of a certain region. For example “Why do you want that money?”; “Now I really want nothing ‘in the river.”


The parentheses () are used to delimit. Through them, words, sentences or even paragraphs can be isolated. This makes it possible to clarify or provide some additional information to the main text.

For example, ” Kafka’s Metamorphosis (published in 1915) is a fundamental work of contemporary literature.” “If it hadn’t been for José (who had been present), I would never have discovered the truth.”


Square brackets ([]) are used in a similar way to parentheses, but they are less common and have certain caveats.

  • Bracket is used to introduce additional information to a text that is already in parentheses. For example, “Violeta Parra’s last album (called Last Compositions [1966]) was his best-accomplished work.”
  • It is also used in poetry to indicate the continuity of a word or segment that does not fit in the previous line. For example
Punctuation Mark

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