Punctuation Rules

for Standard American English


Apostrophes indicate possession, plurality, and word contractions.

PlaceholderBrackets[ ]

Brackets enclose editorial comments inserted within a quotation.


Colons introduce examples, explanations, summaries, series, and quotations.


Commas separate main clauses in sentences that are joined by coordinating conjunctions.

ThumbnailEllipses. . .

Ellipsis points indicate an omission from a direct quotation, or suggest fragmented speech, or a thought that trails off.

ThumbnailEm Dash

Em Dashes are used to set off a word or clause within a sentence more emphatically than with commas.

ThumbnailEn Dash

En Dashes are used to indicate a range of numbers.

ThumbnailExclamation Point!

Exclamation points are used to end emphatic statements.


Hyphens are used to form compound words and to add certain prefixes.

ThumbnailParentheses( )

Parentheses enlcose supplemental material within sentences.


Periods are used to end declaritive and exclamatory sentences.

ThumbnailQuestion Mark?

Question marks are used to end direct questions.

ThumbnailQuotation Marks" "

Quotation marks are used to enclose direct quotations.


Semicolons are used to join main clauses in a sentence.


Slashes are used to indicate options and unindented lines of poetry.