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San Pedro Technological Institute Punctuation Marks and Their Functions

Punctuation is the system of symbols (. , ! - : etc.) that we use to separate sentences and parts of sentences, and
to make their meaning clear. Each symbol is called a "punctuation mark".
The Value of Punctuation
An English teacher wrote these words on the board:
woman without her man is nothing
The teacher then asked the students to punctuate the words correctly. The men wrote the top line. The women wrote the
bottom line.
Woman, without her man, is nothing.
Woman: Without her, man is nothing.

In writing, punctuation is used to indicate pauses, gestures and changes in expression. It also separates one thought from
another. Without punctuation, a group of words can hardly be understood.
To make the meaning of words in a sentence understandable, you need signals or marks. These are punctuation marks.

The following are accepted punctuation marks and their functions:

1. The period (.)

a. It indicates the end of a declarative or an imperative sentence.
b. It is used after abbreviations or initials.
c. It is used after numbers or letters in enumerations.
d. It is a mark for a decimal fraction.
2. The question mark (?)
It is used for an interrogative sentence.
3. The exclamation point (!)
It is used after words, phrases or sentences expressing sudden emotion like joy, fear, pain, happiness,
anger, etc.
4. The comma (,)
This is the most helpful punctuation mark in the English language. It clarifies the meaning of a sentence
by showing where one word or group of words ends and the next word or group of word begins.
Specifically, it is used:
a. To separate words, numbers, phrases or clauses in a series.
Examples: We bought books, pencils, notebooks, and stationery from that bookstore. (series of
The ages of his children are 3, 5, 8, 12, and 14. (series of numbers)
This is a government of the people, by the people and for the people. (series of phrases)
I don’t remember how we got the award, when he got it, where he was awarded, or who
gave it to him.
NOTE: It is also correct to omit the comma before the conjunction and or or joint the last two elements in
the series
b. To separate an appositive 9a word or group of words explaining or adding information about the noun or
pronoun it follows) from the rest if the sentence.
Examples: Barbara, my daughter, is already married.

NOTE: Can you explain the difference in meaning between these sentences?
Ethel, our cook, is coming.
Ethel, our cook is coming.
c. To separate a direct quotation from the rest of the sentences.
Examples: Gen. MacArthur had said, “I shall return.”
“You are mistaken,” she said.
d. After a dependent clause at the beginning of the sentence.

Business English
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San Pedro Technological Institute Punctuation Marks and Their Functions

Example: When I go home tonight, I shall work on the project immediately.

e. Before a coordinating conjunction in a compound sentence.
Example: The boys rushed out of the room when the bell sounded, but the girls remained at their
f. To separate parenthetical expressions like I believe, no doubt, of course, however, I think, indeed, etc.
used for emphasis.
Examples: I will try my best, however, to help you.
He will be there, no doubt, to attend the meeting.
g. To set off introductory words or nouns addressed to from the rest of the sentence.
Examples: No, you are not supposed to do that.
Keep quiet, children.
h. Before a tag question.
Example: You saw him do it, didn’t you?
i. To separate a title following a name.
Examples: Roberto Ruiz, M.D.
Mr. Ricardo L. Reyes, General Manager
j. To separate the elements in addresses and dates.
Examples: His last known address is 356 Juan Luna St., Mandaluyong, Metro Mania. (The house
number and the street are considered a single element.)
My eldest sister was born on august 25, 1910. ( the month and the day are considered
single element.)
k. To mark off every three digits from the right in numerals representing quantity or amount to indicate
thousand, million, billion, etc.
5. The colon ( : )
a. This is used to introduce a formal listing or enumeration.
Example: In need of the following things: thread, needle, colored cloth, and a round wooden frame.
b. It is used after the salutation in a business letter.
Examples: Dear Sir:, Gentlemen:, Dear Mrs. Cruz:
c. It separates the hour and minutes in giving the time.
Example: 3:13 PM
d. It separates the chapter from the verse in the bible references, like John 3:16.
6. The semi-colon ( ; )
a. This is used to separate independent but related clauses not joined by a coordinating conjunction. You can
replace it with a period and you will have two complete sentences.
Example: Tony is a very intelligent student; his classmates respect him for that.
b. It is also used to separate long elements in a series of phrases and clauses when such elements contain
internal punctuation.
Example: The committee is composed of Ramon L. Santos, mayor of the town, as chairman; Raul
N. Mendez, a chemical engineer; Romeo R. Ramos, a school teacher; Jose M. Diaz, a
businessman; and Rolando S. Tan, a newspaperman; as members.
7. The hyphen ( - )
This is a short horizontal line used:
a. To hold or join together the parts of compound words, like good-looking, brother-in-law, officer-in-
charge, self-confidence.
b. To divide a word at the end of a line.
8. The dash ( -- )
This is also a horizontal line but longer than the hyphen. It is used:
a. To indicate a sudden change of thought in a sentence or when the sentence is suddenly broken off.
Examples: I have been very busy last few weeks – but let’s talk about yourself.
My close friend—you know him well—lives just across the street.
b. In lieu of the comma for emphasis.
Business English
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San Pedro Technological Institute Punctuation Marks and Their Functions

Example: The students wanted – believe it or not – the classes to continue.

I am writing about one important matter – your credit standing.
c. To join an uninterrupted series of numbers where only the beginning and the ending numbers are shown.
Examples: Aniana spent her school days during the years 1980 – 1984.
Please review pages 20 – 28.
9. The parenthesis ( )
This punctuation mark always comes in pairs ( open parenthesis and closed parenthesis). Its functions are:
a. To set off expressions not necessary to the sentence but considered supplementary to the meaning of the
preceding word.
Example: In your latest letter (see attached copy), you expressed your willingness to settle the
matter out of court.
b. To enclose numbers or letter in enumerations.
10. The apostrophe ( ‘ )
This is used:
a. To express ownership or possession.
b. To mark omissions in contractions and in numbers.
Examples: didn’t, can’t, o’ clock, ‘88
c. To enclose a quotation within a quotation.
Example: sonny said, “That student thinks he is a ‘sign’ in this school.”
11. The quotation marks ( “ “ )
These marks come in pairs 9open quotation and closed quotation) and are used:
a. To enclose direct quotations or exact words.
b. To enclose titles of books, stories, movies, articles, etc.
c. To enclose unusual words or expressions.
Example: That instructor is considered the “terror” in the school.
12. Ellipsis mark ( … )
The ellipsis mark consists of three dots (periods).
a. We use the ellipsis mark in place of missing words. If we intentionally omit one or more words from an
original text, we replace them with an ellipsis mark.
The ellipsis mark is also called a "suspension point" or "dot".
 Suppose we want to quote "The film focused on three English learners from Asia who were
studying at university." Perhaps we want to omit "from Asia who were" to save space. So we

"The film focused on three English learners...studying at university."

The new sentence still makes sense, but the ellipsis mark shows the reader that something is
b. We sometimes also use an ellipsis mark to indicate a pause when someone is speaking, or an unfinished
sentence. Look at these examples:
 She turned to James and said, "Darling, there is something...I need to tell you. I have never
felt like...like this before."
 "It's not easy to explain. It's not..." Her voice trailed away as emotion welled up within her.

Business English
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