English Topic 11 - Punctuation marks: Use of full stops, commas, colons, semi-colons, question marks, exclamation marks, brackets, ellipses, dashes and apostrophes

Punctuation marks: The use of full stops, commas, colons, semi-colons, question marks, exclamation marks, brackets, ellipses, dashes and apostrophes is commonly tested in 11 plus exams.

Examples for colons:

Colon used to introduce an explanation: Ollie had twisted his ankle playing football: he could not walk home so needed a lift.

Colon used to introduce a list: To make a Victoria Sponge you will need: 100g self-raising flour, 100g butter, 100g caster sugar and 2 eggs.

Colon used to separate two independent clauses: The Taj Mahal was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan: It was built as a memorial to his favourite wife.

Colon used to introduce an example: An orchestra comprises many different sections for example: strings, wind, percussion and brass.

Colon used to introduce direct speech: Finley whispered: ” Let’s grab our school bags and head home before we’re seen.”

Video Tutorial Colons:

Examples for semi-colons:

Semi-colon used in place of commas in a list: To make a Victoria Sponge you will need: 100g sieved self-raising flour; 100g best quality butter; 100g white caster sugar and 2 medium-sized eggs.

Semi-colon used to connect two independent clauses or sentences: Harry sang in the school choir; he was singing the tenor part.

Semi-colon used to replace conjunctions (e.g. and, but, because, afterwards): We like to camp in the summer; it is warm enough then.

Video tutorial for semi-colons:

Examples for using apostrophes to show possession:

Apostrophes are used to show that something belongs to something/somebody else.

The horses mane was long and black. (The apostrophe goes after ‘horse’ – there is one horse and the mane belong to it.)

The horses manes were long and black. (The apostrophe goes after ‘horses’ – there is more than one horse and the manes belong to them.)

The childs toys were scattered all over the floor. (The apostrophe goes after ‘child’ – there is one child and the toys belong to it.)

The childrens bedrooms will all need tidying and cleaning. (The apostrophe goes after ‘children’ as it is a plural form of the noun.)

The mans office was on the top floor. (The apostrophe goes after ‘man’ – there is one man and the toys belong to him.)

The mens office was on the top floor. (The apostrophe goes after ‘men’ – as it is a plural form of the noun.)

Video tutorial for apostrophes to show possession:

Examples for using apostrophes for contractions:

Contractions should always be punctuated using an apostrophe showing where the letters are missing from a word e.g. I’ll = I will, I’d = I would, I’ve= I have, you’re = you are, could’ve = could have, should’ve = should have, they’d = they would, can’t = can not, don’t = do not, needn’t = need not, let’s = let us, weren’t = were not, aren’t = are not, mustn’t = must not

Video tutorial for apostrophes used in contractions:

Examples for exclamation marks:

Exclamation marks (!) are used to show strong feeling, surprise or to emphasise something and after an interjection.

There’s an poisonous snake under your bed! (used to emphasise)

No way, I got an A* in my essay! (used to show surprise)

Help! I’m drowning (used after the interjection ‘help’)

I love it! It’s a really cute puppy. (used to show strong feeling)

Video tutorial for exclamation marks:

Examples for ellipses:

An ellipsis is written as three dots It shows where part of a text has been omitted. Ellipses may be used to create suspense or a pause and can also show where the reader may finish the writing with their own thoughts e.g. at a ‘cliffhanger’ ending a story.

They struggled to climb over the last fence after running as fast as their legs could take them. It was finished (Here the ellipsis has been used for the reader to imagine what happened next.)

My bank phoned not good news. (Here the ellipsis has been used to create a pause.)

It was done the message had been sent now to wait for the answer. (Here the ellipses have been used to create pauses.)

Video tutorial for ellipses:

Examples for question marks:

Question marks are used to punctuate sentences that are questions, in place of a full-stop.

They are also used at the end of a rhetorical question – this is a question for which no answer is required. Rhetorical questions can be used to introduce a subject, make a point and draw the reader in to a text.

Would you like me to butter the bread for our sandwiches? (a question)

How many islands make up the country of Greece? (a question)

Why is it not possible to sneeze whilst you’re asleep? (a question)

Who doesn’t love chocolate? (rhetorical question – no answer is needed)

Who knows? (rhetorical question – no answer is needed)

Can birds fly? (rhetorical question – no answer is needed)

Video tutorial for question marks:

Examples for brackets:

Brackets are used to add information to a sentence that is not essential to the main clause/idea. The sentence will make sense without the brackets.

Sam went out in the storm (without a raincoat) and became soaked.

Without the brackets this sentence still makes sense: Sam went out in the storm and became soaked.

Sara studied (every day) for her 11+ exam.

Without the brackets this sentences still makes sense: Sara studied for her 11+ exam. 

Video tutorial for brackets:

Examples for dashes and hyphens:

Dashes separate parts of a sentence and can act like brackets, commas and colons.

e.g. I painted you a picture it’s of your favourite place and have posted it to your home address. (dashes used in place of brackets or commas)

e.g. A whale is not a type of fish it is a mammal. (dash used in place of a colon)

Hyphens are placed between two words so that they make sense together.

e.g. carpark, motherin-law, badtempered, wellliked, onthejob, icecold, goodlooking, blueeyed, Email, redhot.

Video tutorial for hyphens:

Video tutorial for hyphens and dashes:

Examples for commas:

Commas have many functions in a sentence and these are the uses that you should be familiar with:

a) To separate direct speech from the rest of the sentence (see speech marks above).

e.g. Molly asked, ” Can we both take our umbrellas out please?”

b) After a fronted adverbial at the start of a sentence.

Before sleeping, Isabelle carefully placed her new shoes by her bed. (‘Before sleeping’ is the fronted adverbial phrase)

c) To separate items in a list.

e.g. We will need to take our tent, groundsheet, sleeping bags, spare clothes and washing bags to scout camp. (note not to use a comma before the ‘and’)

d) To enclose an embedded (subordinate) clause in a sentence.

e.g. The plumber arrived, he was very tall, and immediately set to work. (here ‘he was very tall’ is the extra piece of information that is enclosed by commas)

e) To make a meaning clear and avoid ambiguity in a sentence.

Let’s eat, Grandad. instead of Let’s eat Grandad.

Video tutorials for commas:


Examples for capital letters:

There are several grammar rules for using capital letters. These are the rules that you should be familiar with:

a) At the start of any sentence.

b) For proper nouns. These are the names of actual people, places and things.

e.g. Paris, London, Imogen, Mark, Mercedes, The Railway Children (book), August, Friday, Star Wars (film), Green Lane (address), Amazon, Marks & Spencer, St Mary’s Church, Barclays Bank, Titanic, Post Office, Christmas

c) For abbreviations: acronyms & initialisms.

An acronym is formed from the first letters and typically pronounced as one word e.g. NATO, SCUBA

An initialism is formed by using the first letter of each word in a phrase but these are pronounced as letters

e.g. BBC, RAC, MP, DIY, ASAP, VIP (it is becoming common not to use full-stops after each capital)

d) At the start of direct speech, inside speech marks.

e.g. ” Would you like another slice of chocolate cake?” Jack asked his grandma.

e) For the pronoun ‘I‘ and its contracted forms e.g. I‘ve, I‘m, I‘ll

f) For headings and titles – as these are the names given to books, films, pieces of writing etc.

e.g. The Lion King, Frozen, The Butterfly Lion, The Hobbit

Video tutorials for capital letters:



Examples for full stops:

A full stop should always be used at the end of a complete sentence, unless it requires a question mark or exclamation mark.

Full stops are also used for abbreviations.

e.g. Mr. (Mister), Rd. (Road), Dr. (Doctor), approx., Jan., Dept., etc.


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