A Quick Guide to Punctuation for Non-Native Researchers

A Quick Guide to Punctuation for Non-Native Researchers

A Quick Guide to Punctuation for Non-Native Researchers



The period is the most widely used punctuation. Its main role is to end a sentence.

Example: This sentence contains a period.



The question mark is applied at the end of a sentence that asks a question.

Example: Why is punctuation important?



The exclamation point is used at the end of a sentence that shows, as its name portrays, an exclamation.

Example: I love punctuation!


The comma indicates a pause in a sentence that would take place if the sentence was said out loud. It is typically used to separate the grammatical components of a sentence such as clauses, phrases or words.

Example: After a dependent clause, we can use a comma to separate it from the dependent clause.



The semicolon is stronger than a comma, and is used to connect multiple clauses that discuss a related idea.

Example: I am a big fan of pizza; I have it daily.



The colon has three main uses, namely, to introduce a list of items, between two clauses when the latter introduces the former, and for emphasis.

Example: My three favorite pizza toppings are: mushrooms, pepperoni and peppers.


The hyphen is used for connecting compound terms.

Example: What an eye-opener.


The en dash is wider than the hyphen but narrower than the em dash. It is equal to the width of the letter n, hence, its name. This symbol is not included on a standard keyboard. Its role is to show a range of numerical values, dates or times (8⁠–⁠12), to indicate conflict connection or conflict between words (north⁠–⁠south expressway), or in between compound adjectives (award-winning).

Example: I eat 8⁠–⁠12 pizzas a week.


The em dash is used to enhance readability. It can be used to allow a stronger emphasis, and can replace the comma, parenthesis and colon.

Example: My favorite pizza shop—John’s Pizza—has recently closed.



Quotation marks are used in pairs, and are applied to show content that is presented as-is, or verbatim.

Example: “Let’s go have a pizza,” she said.


The ellipses is a group of three periods, and indicates an omission.

Example: I don’t know the answer … I’m clueless.



Brackets are used in pairs, and are commonly applied for editorial material within quotations. They can also be used for emphasis, and within parenthesis.

Example: The principal said that she “will start the new course early next year [2022].”



Parentheses are used in pairs, and are applied for additional information and citations.

The (now ex) president has stepped down.



The apostrophe has three primary uses, namely, contractions, possessives and plurals.

Example: Let’s go have a pizza.



The slash, often called the virgule, can be used to represent per ($10/hour), and (MA/PhD) and or (his/her). It can also be used in fractions (1/2), abbreviations (pizza w/ extra cheese), or two-year spans (2021/22).

Example: I had a pizza w/ extra cheese.



Angle brackets were used to enclose emails or URLs in the past, but not any longer. They are typically unused in formal writing, unless to serve a very specific purpose.

Example: The correct email address is <cindy@hotmail.com>



Braces, often referred to as curly brackets, are applied in mathematical expressions and equations, are typically unused in formal writing. They are also used in programming language syntax.

Example: He had three numbers {2, 4, 6} in mind.


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1 Comment


  1. […] involves checking the punctuation (commas, colons, apostrophes, etc.) of each sentence, and making sure the punctuation symbols are […]

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