Correct punctuation makes your writing easy for others to read. There are a number of punctuation marks, and rules to follow in using them.

THE FULL STOP. A single full stop marks the end of a sentence. However, you can use three or four full stops in a row indicate that the sentence hasn't been completed and the idea continues. For example. "At the end of the movie, the evil genius is defeated. Or maybe not…. "

THE QUESTION MARK: Distinguishes a statement from a question.

THE EXCLAMATION MARK: Used to give a statement emphasis. In business or formal writing, it should be used sparingly and never in multiples.

THE COLON is used to separate two parts of a sentence where the second part explains or expands on the first. For example, "We received information from two sources: a telephone message and an anonymous letter." It is also used before a bulleted list, where each bullet expands on or completes the sentence started before the colon.

For example:

In the event of a fire:

  • never use the lift,
  • leave the building quickly and without panic, and
  • assemble at the designated point.

THE COMMA is the most frequently used of all punctuation marks. It indicates a slight pause in the sentence. It can be used before and after a phrase which is used as an aside. For example: "In addition, according to our records, we think there will be further demand." It is also used where there is a list of items. For example: "He collected his hat, money, ticket and umbrella."

If there is no danger of ambiguity and the sentence is quite clear without a comma, then leave it out.

THE SEMI-COLON marks a longer pause in a sentence than a comma. For example, "The semi-colon can be useful; it is used here in preference to a full stop."

BRACKETS are used to enclose an explanation, definition or an additional piece of information in a sentence: "The member who raised the complaint (Mr Foster of Levin) has since received a full explanation."

THE DASH has become popular recently and can be used instead of brackets. It is less formal than brackets, and interrupts the flow of the sentence less. For example: "He completed all the forms - including the club and association forms - but failed to include his subscription."

THE APOSTROPHE is used for two reasons. First to show that a letter has been missed out. For example: it's (it is), don't (do not), there's (there is).

Secondly, it is used before 's' to show the possessive (belonging to) case of a noun. For example 'The customer's case' rather than 'the case belonging to the customer'.

NOTE: For possessives of plurals an apostrophe only (rather than apostrophe s) is added where the plural ends in 's' or 'es', for example: customers' requirements, Officers' Club.