- full stop
- inverted commas
- exclamation mark
- question mark
- bullet point
to mark the end of a sentence that is a complete statement:
to mark the end of a group of words that don’t form a conventional sentence, so as to emphasize a statement:
in some abbreviations, for example etc., Dec., or p.m.:
in website and email addresses:
Having had lunch,
we went back to work.
I first saw her in Paris,
where I lived in the early nineties.
If the commas were removed, these sentences wouldn’t be as clear but the meaning would still be the same. There are different types of subordinate clause, though, and in some types the use of commas can be very important.
who have young children
may board the aircraft first.
This sentence contains what’s known as a ‘restrictive relative clause’. Basically, a restrictive relative clause contains information that’s essential to the meaning of the sentence as a whole. If you left it out, the sentence wouldn’t make much sense. If we removed the relative clause from the example above, then the whole point of that sentence would be lost and we’d be left with the rather puzzling statement:
who has two young children,
has a part-time job in the library.
If you remove this clause, the meaning of the sentence isn’t affected and it still makes perfect sense. All that’s happened is that we’ve lost a bit of extra information about Mary:
between two main clauses in cases where the second clause explains or follows from the first:
to introduce a list:
before a quotation, and sometimes before direct speech:
its (without an apostrophe) means ‘belonging to it’:
it’s (with an apostrophe) means ‘it is’ or ‘it has’:
(e.g. The cost of the trip is 570 euros.)
(e.g. Traditional Italian pizzas are thin and crisp.)
(e.g. She buys big bags of organic apples and carrots.)
(e.g. Local MPs are divided on this issue.)
(e.g. The situation was different in the 1990s.)
It's very important to remember this grammatical rule.
you can use an apostrophe to show the plurals of single letters:
you can use an apostrophe to show the plurals of single numbers:
noun + adjective
noun + participle
|adjective + participle|
With compound adjectives formed from the adverb well and a participle (e.g. well-known), or from a phrase (e.g. up-to-date), you should use a hyphen when the compound comes before the noun:
an ice skate
a booby trap
a spot check
a court martial
You should continue to build up your pension.
They broke in by forcing a lock on the door.
We stopped off in Hawaii on the way home.
If a phrasal verb is made into a noun, though, you SHOULD use a hyphen:
There was a build-up of traffic on the ring road.
The house was unoccupied at the time of the break-in.
We knew there would be a stop-off in Singapore for refuelling.
In the past, these sorts of compounds were usually hyphenated, but the situation is different today. The tendency is now to write them as either one word or two separate words. However, the most important thing to note is that you should choose one style and stick to it within a piece of writing. Don’t refer to a playgroup in one paragraph and a play-group in another.
You may see a yield that is two-, three-, or fourfold.
in pairs, to mark off information or ideas that are not essential to an understanding of the rest of the sentence:
to show other kinds of break in a sentence where a comma, semicolon, or colon would be traditionally used:
There are two main types of brackets.
Round brackets (also called parentheses) are mainly used to separate off information that isn’t essential to the meaning of the rest of the sentence. If you removed the bracketed material the sentence would still make perfectly good sense. For example:
Mount Everest (8,848 m) is the highest mountain in the world.
There are several books on the subject (see page 120).
He coined the term ‘hypnotism’ (from the Greek word hypnos meaning 'sleep') and practised it frequently.
They can also be used to enclose a comment by the person writing:
He’d clearly had too much to drink (not that I blamed him).
Square brackets are mainly used to enclose words added by someone other than the original writer or speaker, typically in order to clarify the situation:
He [the police officer] can’t prove they did it.
If round or square brackets are used at the end of a sentence, the full stop should be placed outside the closing bracket:
They eventually decided to settle in the United States (Debbie's home).
to mark the beginning and end of direct speech (i.e. a speaker’s words written down exactly as they were spoken):
to mark off a word or phrase that’s being discussed, or that’s being directly quoted from somewhere else:
direct speech that represents something shouted or spoken very loudly:
something that amuses the writer:
An exclamation mark can also be used in brackets after a statement to show that the writer finds it funny or ironic:
A question mark is used to indicate the end of a question:
Bullet points are used to draw attention to important information within a document so that a reader can identify the key issues and facts quickly. There are no fixed rules about how to use them, but here are some guidelines.
- The text introducing the list of bullet points should end with a colon.
- If the text that follows the bullet point is not a proper sentence, it doesn’t need to begin with a capital letter and it shouldn’t end with a full stop, for example:
- annual review of capital gains issues
- outstanding inheritance tax issues
- If the text following the bullet point IS a complete sentence, it should begin with a capital letter. A full stop at the end is technically required but is not absolutely essential:
- We will conduct an annual review of capital gains issues.
- The senior tax manager will talk about outstanding inheritance tax issues.
- Lists of bullet points will have more impact if each one begins with the same word class (or part of speech) and if they are all of a similar length. Action verbs are a good choice for the first word, i.e. verbs that describe the performing of an action. If you do use verbs, make sure that each one is in the same tense. Here’s an example of the effective use of action verbs in a person’s CV/résumé:
- teaching national curriculum to Key Stage 1 pupils
- reaching attainment targets and improving learning performance
- developing extracurricular sports programme
- Bullet points tend to have more impact if their text is relatively short. Make sure you use the same typeface and margin width within each section.