We must use a capital letter at the beginning of a sentence.

E.g. It is hot today.
E.g. it is hot today.

Many names must start with a capital letter.

They are peoples names, unique animal names, unique place names and the names of unique things.

E.g. I saw John today.
E.g. My dog is called Nelson.
E.g. I live in London in England.
E.g. Big Ben is in London.
E.g. My favourite film is Batman.

There are other times when we must use capital letters.

The word "I" should be a capital letter

E.g. Miranda and I went to the cinema.

Days and months should start with a capital letter.

E.g. I am working on Friday.
E.g. My birthday is in March.
E.g. The months of summer are June, July and August.

Initals should be spelt in only capital letters.

E.g. the UK, the USA, the UN, ASEAN.

Nationalities always start with a Capital letter.

E.g. Spaghetti Bolognese is an Italian dish.
E.g. Elvis Presley was an American singer.

Finally as seen above, in names made of two or more words each word must start with a capital letter.

E.g. Spaghetti Bolognese.
E.g. Elvis Presley.
E.g. Qatar Airways.

The full stop(UK) or period(US).


We use a period for two things.

Firstly, to end a sentence.

Secondly, to write decimal numbers. E.g. 3.5, 4.6 or 9.25

The question mark.


We put a question mark at the end of a question.

E.g. What time is it?
E.g. How are you?

The exclamation mark!


We can choose to use the exclamation mark, we don't have to use it if we don't want to.

We use it at the end of a sentence.

We use it after a loud noise or shout or to show suprise or excitement.

E.g. Bang! went the door.
E.g. "Stop!" he shouted.
E.g. "I can't believe it!" she said.
E.g. "I love it!" he said.

Speech or quotation marks.



We use quotation marks to quote the words of another person.

Usually, we use double quotation marks. ("")

E.g. Josie said, "I'm going to be late."
E.g. "I like it," said Peter.
E.g. "Stop it!" cried John.

As you can see above we should put a comma, full stop, question mark or exclamation mark at the end of the spoken words inside the speech marks.

Single quotation marks.

Single quotation marks go inside double quotation marks.

E.g. John said, "Lucy says, 'I'll be late.'"

We can also put double quotation marks inside single quotation marks.

E.g. John said, 'Lucy says, "I'll be late."'



Commas can be used to separate items in a list.

E.g. I like apples, oranges, pears, grapes, and bananas.

If there is no comma before the word "and" this might mean that the words before and after "and" are together.

E.g. I was with David, Stephen, Trevor and Alison, Susan, and Frank. (Trevor and Alison are probably married.)

We usually put a comma before a conjunction if the words after the conjunction could make a sentence.

E.g. I like coffee, but my brother likes tea.
E.g. I like pizza, and my brother does too.
E.g. She does not go swimming, nor does he sister.
E.g. You can go to the beach, or you can stay at home.
E.g. He hates football, yet his sister loves it.
E.g. He loved sailing, so he bought a boat.
E.g. They decided to stop for a rest, for it was a long way home. (in this sentence "for" is like "because")
E.g. She knew that her manager was leaving at the end of the month, because she had seen a letter on his desk.
= She knew because she had seen the letter about the manager leaving.

E.g. She knew that her manager was leaving at the end of the month because she had seen a letter on his desk.
= The manager was leaving because she had seen the letter, and she knew this was his reason for leaving

We can put a comma around extra information in the middle of a sentence.

E.g. Chris, the factory manager, was standing by the door. ('the factory manager' is extra information)

We can use a comma to split introductory phrases from the rest of the sentence.

E.g. Running for the door, he tripped. = He tripped as he was running for the door.
E.g. Unfortunately, he had missed the bus.

We can use a comma before quoting somebody's speech.

E.g. He said, "Wait for me here."

We also use a comma between the word "Hello." and someone's name.

E.g. Alan said, "Hello, Stephen."

Finally, we can use a comma to write large numbers.

E.g. 900 x 900 = 810,000



Semicolons can be used in lists where a comma would be confusing.

E.g. In this office are Mark, the director of studies; Alan, the head of administration; Janet, our accounts manager; and Stephen, Janet's assistant.

Semicolons can also be used instead of "and", "because" and "but" to join two sentences together.

The sentences must be complete and related to each other.

E.g. Stephen is very good at his job; I think he should be promoted to head of department.
E.g. I don't like lemonade; it's too sweet for me.
E.g. Stephen loves coffee; his wife, however, hates it.



The colon is often used to introduce a list.

E.g. The people travelling on coach C will be: John, Alison, Trevor, Susan and David.

The colon can have a meaning similar to "which is/are/was/were"

E.g. He got what he wanted for Christmas: a new car.

The colon can be used in introductions in formal letter writing:

E.g. Dear Mr.Smith:

Finally, the colon can be used to separate hours and minutes when we tell the time:

E.g. The time is: 12:20 a.m.



Hyphens are used to put words together.

E.g. Three-hundred-year-old trees. = The trees are 300 years old.
E.g. Three hundred-year-old trees. = There are three trees which are 100 years old.
E.g. Three hundred year-old trees. = There are three hundred trees which are one year old.

We use also hyphens for fractions and numbers between twenty and one hundred, if the numbers are made of two words.

E.g. Three-quarters, twenty-five and thirty-six.

Try our punctuation quiz.

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