Punctuation Marks

What are punctuation marks?

Punctuation marks are signs or graphic marks that allow the writer to structure a written speech, while allowing the reader to identify the inflections of the text, that is, the intonation mode and the necessary pauses that facilitate its understanding.

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.

Through punctuation marks, the texts are structured, ordering and hierarchizing the main and secondary ideas, which allows the reader a better interpretation, analysis and understanding of the content.

Type of punctuation marks

Punctuation marks have some general rules established to make the correct use of them. However, it is possible that each individual makes a particular use of the signs but always considering the general rules implemented.


The period (.) indicates the pause that occurs at the end of a sentence. After a period, it will always be written with a capital letter, except in the case that it appears in an abbreviation. There are three kinds of point:

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The point and followed: is used to separate the different statements that make up a paragraph. After a period and followed, continue to write on the same line.

The point and apart: separates different paragraphs. After the point and apart, the writing must continue on the next line, in capital letters and indented.

the end point: is the point that closes a text.

See also Point.


The comma (,) marks a short pause within a statement.

  • It is used to separate components of the sentence or phrase, unless it is preceded by a 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 subsections or clarifications and to point out omissions. For example, “If you come, we are waiting for you; If not, we’re leaving.”
  • Separates 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.

The two points

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

  • Before a quote and as a warning. For example, “The saying goes: better late than never”.
  • Before an enumeration. For example, “The four seasons of the year are: spring, summer, autumn, 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 because of the game.”


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

  • To separate the elements of an enumeration when dealing with complex expressions that include commas. For example, “His hair is brown; the green eyes; the nose, turned up”.
  • Before the conjugations (but, although and more), when a long phrase is introduced. For example, “Many years ago I wanted to visit that place, but until today’s sun I had no opportunity.”
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Suspensives points

The ellipses (…) are formed by three points in a line and without space between them. It is used in the following cases:

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

Question marks and exclamation marks

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

The exclamation or exclamation marks (!) are used in statements that express an intense feeling or emotion. For example, “what a failure!”, “get out of here!”. Also, in the interjections, “ay!”, “oh!”.

It should be noted that the use of double question marks and admiration 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 Language in the year 1754. It was a consequence of the continuous confusion of reading derived from the absence of graphic elements that announced the questions or admirations.

Auxiliary punctuation marks

In the same way as punctuation marks, auxiliary signs help to interpret a text, which generates coherence and allows the reader to obtain a better understanding.

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



The short hyphen (-) 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, cupboard, luce-ro, mousetrap.

Likewise, when more than two terms are needed to describe a subject, 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, brat, etc.

Quotation marks

  • Quotation marks (“”) are used for two essential functions:
  • Highlight a word or phrase within a text. For example: When I say “democracy” I mean the power of the people.
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To quote another person’s words. For example: The president said: “Our athletes are a source of pride.”

umlaut In the Spanish language, the umlaut (¨) is a graphic sign that allows you to read the letter or when, despite being between the consonant g and semi-open vowels Yo Yand

, it should ring. For example: ointment, crankshaft, guiro, linguistics.

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


  • The apostrophe (ʼ) in Spanish has several uses. We can list the following:
  • Eliding a letter in the ancient script. 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.


Parentheses () are used to delimit. Through them, words, phrases or even paragraphs can be isolated. This allows clarifying or providing some complementary information to the main text.For example, “ Metamorphosis

Kafka’s book (published in 1915) is a seminal work of contemporary literature.” “Had it not been for Joseph (who had been present), I would never have discovered the truth.”

Brackets[]The square brackets (

  • ) are used in a similar way to parentheses, but are less common and have certain caveats. Brackets are used to introduce additional information to text that is already in parentheses. For example, “Violeta Parra’s latest album (called [1966]the latest compositions
  • ) was his best-achieved work”.
  • When during the transcription of a paragraph, the writer wishes to introduce a note or clarification.
  • When, during a citation, a section of the referenced text is omitted.

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,


See also Para.