Skip to content

Punctuation Marks You Need To Be Familiar With

The correct use of punctuation marks makes all the difference in writing and grammar. Many people are familiar with frequently used punctuation marks such as periods, commas, question marks, and apostrophes. However, a lot more are unfamiliar with the less popular ones such as em-dash, the en-dash, and the slash or oblique. 

If you are unfamiliar with some of these punctuation marks yourself, don’t fret, as this article covers some of the essential punctuation marks you need to know, especially if you’re making a term paper. 

1. Period

Also known as a full stop, almost everyone recognizes a period and knows how to use one. Nonetheless, the importance of using them appropriately cannot be overemphasized. A full stop indicates the completion of a sentence. You can also use a period when a word is written or printed in an abbreviated form. 

When using a period, make sure it is placed directly after the last letter of the sentence to indicate the sentence ending. For instance, “Julie went to school.” 

For abbreviated words, A period is placed immediately after the last letter. For instance, “Mr.,” which is an abbreviated form of Mister. 

2. Em Dash

The em dash is one of the few punctuation marks that you may not recognize until you see it in a sentence. This punctuation mark can easily replace hyphens, commas, colons, semi-colons, and parenthesis. 

Em dash is usually used to indicate an interruption in a sentence. For instance, “She stood up slowly to walk away, alas! — towards danger.” 

Some writers also use em dash to draw emphasis to a word or a sentence, for e.g., “I wasn’t wicked deliberately— but I did it for revenge.” 

Em dash are used to set apart lengthy phrases and descriptions with appositive commas. For instance, “My friend, Gideon, is a lover of horses,” will become “My friend— Gideon— is a lover of horses.”

3. En Dash

Often confused with Em Dash and hyphen, En Dash is used to show the space in between a range of numbers or a time span. A tip to help you use en-dash appropriately is to remember that it can replace words like “through” and “to” when talking about time, sports scores, pages, or chapters in a book. 

Examples include:  

  • 2000-2019. 
  • 1-10 hours. 
  • 100-500; Read pages 15-25. 
  • Chicago-New York Flight. 

It can also indicate differentiation, as in “North-South Rivalry,” etc. 

4. Quotation Marks

Quotation marks are used to enclose a direct quotation in a dialogue. For instance, “Do you want to go to the market?” Ellie asked. “No, I just want to stay home,” replied Emma. 

Some writers also use quotation marks to enclose words that are important in a sentence. 

There are two kinds of quotation marks, the single and the double. The double quotation marks are more common in American English, while the British tend to use single quotation marks. The single quotation marks are also used for separating quotes within quotes. 

5. The Oblique

Also known as the slash, the oblique is a slanted stroke or line used to represent fractions and division in maths, exclusive or inclusive, and separate dates when writing. Examples include: 

  • 1000/50 as in division and fraction. 
  • Excluding poetry/music. 
  • Including light/day. 
  • 22/02/2020. 

The backslash \, which is the reverse of the standard slash, is used to write computer programs and codes. 

6. Colon

Whenever you see a colon in a sentence, it usually means a list is to follow. For example, “There are seven days in a week: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.” 

It is also used in writing to supply and introduce further information on a subject. For instance, “David reached out to take Caroline’s hand: it was already too late, so she declined.” 

Furthermore, a colon can provide emphasis on a subject. For example, “There couldn’t be a better time for this: except now, of course!” 

7. Hyphen

Hyphens are those little strokes that help you make compound words. Although most times confused with the em dash and en dash, hyphens are shorter than both em dash and en dash, and also perform a different function. 

Significantly, hyphens join words together while dashes separate them. When using a hyphen in a sentence, make sure you don’t leave any space between the words. For instance, “He was well-known in the department.” 

Other examples of hyphenated words include “co-joined, environment-friendly, full-time,” etc. 

8. Ellipsis

Ellipses (plural) are one of the handy punctuation marks that are very useful in writing. Eclipses are three little dots that allow users to skip some words in a sentence. Whenever you see “…” in a sentence, it implies that there is an interrupted speech or an omission. It is mostly used when you are trying to shorten a prolonged statement or quote to only focus on the essential parts. 

Eclipses can also break the flow of a particular line of thought. For instance, “I thought you would consider going for the meeting… never mind! I think I know the answer already.” 

9. Interrobang

This is probably one of the least popular punctuation marks that you will ever find. Interrobang is used to express disbelief and surprise at the same time. So instead of using “?” Or “!” at the end of a sentence, you can opt for an interrobang (?!). 

It can also be used to show eagerness when asking a question. For instance, “Can’t wait to see you, when are you coming?!” 


Punctuation marks spice up any piece of writing. Their presence, or lack thereof, can give complete meaning to a sentence or even a word. There are a lot of collective punctuation marks used in our daily conversations and writing; however, others are not so common. Following and practicing the lessons in this article can help improve your writing skills and ensure that you communicate effectively at all times.