26 Types of Punctuation Marks With Examples

Punctuations in writing are like notes in music. They provide rhythm and emphasis to your sentences. But that’s only possible if you use them correctly!

Get to know the 26 types of punctuation marks, their usage, and some examples with this handy guide. I also provided a chart of the symbols and their punctuation names to give you a cheat sheet!

Punctuation and Typographical Marks Chart

Below is a list of 26 fundamental punctuation and typographical marks. You probably know some of these symbols already. But others are rarely found in formal and informal writing.

SymbolsPunctuation NamesExamples
.PeriodI got this pouch embossed.
?Question markHow many toy trains does he have?
!Exclamation pointWow! You’re a good driver.
,CommaI like the film, but the color grading is poor.
:ColonHere are some fun ideas for the party: dance-off, board games, scavenger hunt.
;SemicolonI’ll visit you once I finish work; that’s a promise.
HyphenI have ninety-nine problems, but chicken tenders can solve all of them.
En dashHow long is a Tokyo–LA flight?
Em dashThe cat—and I’m afraid of four-legged animals—was so adorable.
( )ParenthesesHis favorite team (Los Angeles Clippers) has a chance to win the title. 
[ ]Square bracketsThe staff writer said the “[head] of basketball operations was disappointed.” 
{ }Curly bracketsThe colors {red, green, lilac, red} are for the accent wall.
< >Angle brackets 
“ ”Quotation marksDylan called it a “splendid affair.”
ApostropheSome of Jerry’s gadgets are missing.
/Slash or VirguleI’m getting a lipstick/phone case/necklace for her birthday.
… EllipsesAccording to the staff writer, the “president… was disappointed.”
*Asterisk*Data from The Journal of Acting Ethics.
&AmpersandTiffany & Co.
 Bullet pointOnion Garlic Ginger 
#Pound symbol1 Bestselling.
~TildeI think Jessy owns ~10 pairs of shoes.
\Backslash 
@At symbol[email protected]
^Caret symbol3^3 = 27
|Pipe symbol 

Typographical Marks

Typographical marks, also known as typographical symbols, are often confused with punctuation marks. They are defined as characters or symbols, such as the asterisk (*), caret (^), or the “at” symbol (@).  

Although they can be used in writing for various purposes, they are always avoided in formal documents and should only be used in specific situations, such as when creating footnotes or shorthand notes. You will commonly see the most popular typographical symbols in punctuation mark lists to highlight their usefulness when used correctly. 

Typographical marks are also used in mathematics, physics, and computer programming.

Types of Punctuation Marks

Let’s touch on the most common types of punctuation marks and how to use them. 

1. Period (.)

The period is one of the most common punctuation marks. Anyone knows the answer to “what is a period used for?” because it’s simply for ending declarative sentences. You can also use it to finish imperative sentences. 

A period also indicates complete sentences. Using it to separate sentences helps make your writing clearer. Here are some examples:

  • Please take care of the shoes I’m lending you.
  • She’s going to the gym tomorrow.
  • Monte Carlo is my comfort movie every time I feel lonely.

You’ll also find a period in abbreviations, as in “Mrs.” and “Mr.”

2. Question Mark (?)

In grammar, a question mark is a familiar punctuation used to end interrogative sentences. It’s known for being a one-job punctuation mark because they simply communicate questions. These sentences can be in the form of a direct question or an indirect question.

A direct question is an interrogative sentence that asks the “ordinary” question. For example:

  • How does it feel to be living my dream?
  • What are the parts of a plant cell?
  • Why do I have to retake this subject?

An indirect question is a more polite way of making a request or asking for information. For example:

  • Could you give me your mobile number for future transactions?
  • Do you know where I can find Mr. Johnson?
  • Would you mind grabbing a few vegetables before you go home?

3. Exclamation Point (!)

One of the most basic punctuation marks is the exclamation point. The punctuation symbol for this is a straight vertical line with a period at the bottom. Use it at the end of an exclamatory sentence to show strong emotion.

Examples:

  • Happy birthday, Emma!
  • Ugh! I can’t stop myself from spending money on books.
  • Wow! The sunset is breathtaking.

4. Comma (,)

One common cause of grammar mistakes in American English is the lack of commas. Use the comma to separate ideas and independent clauses. It’s usually found before a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so). 

We recommend Grammarly to help correct grammar mistakes. Take a look at our other recommended grammar tools here.

You can also use the comma to set off nouns as direct addresses. You need to include this punctuation mark, whether the name is at the beginning or end of the sentence. 

Examples:

  • Millie, you look stunning in your beaded dress.
  • This house used to be orange and blue, but they changed it to lilac and yellow.
  • The partner I have chosen is you, Jacob.

5. Colon (:)

A colon is used to introduce additional information. It can also connect clauses like an em dash and comma. You’ll find this punctuation mark in any kind of writing. For example:

  • Meg has three options after college: apply as an instructional designer, learning engineer, or curriculum specialist.
  • Somehow, everyone forgot the important announcement: Jade and Ryan are getting married.

Colons also have other uses on a regular basis:

  • I started working at 8:30 PM.
  • The correct rice to water ratio is 1:2.

6. Semicolon (;)

Like commas, parenthesis, and em dashes, a semicolon’s function is separating elements within sentences. Use it to join a clause and a larger clause without a conjunction.

Example:

  • Let’s go to the library to finish the essay; Tuesday would be great.

7. Hyphen (-)

In the English language, hyphens are used to form compound words. Another one of the hyphen rules is to divide a word where there’s not enough space for the whole word. You can also use it to avoid the awkward doubling of vowels in a compound term.

Examples:

  • The president-elect withdrew his candidacy after being exposed for plunder.
  • The correct spelling of goodbye is g-o-o-d-b-y-e.
  • My mother has a well-stocked pantry.

8. En Dash (–)

The en dash is one of the different types of dashes that shows range in time periods, distance, and more. 

Example:

  • Incorrect: Chicago-New York train (hyphen)
  • Correct: Chicago–New York train (en dash)

Some people also use it to separate complex compound words. The symbol is longer than a hyphen but shorter than an em dash. The odd name comes from the simple fact that it has the same width as the lowercase letter n.

Examples:

  • Please refer to pages 60–73.
  • She’s a National Book Award–winning author.

One of the most common punctuation mistakes we make is getting confused between the hyphen and a dash. Note that the en-dash doesn’t join compound words the way hyphens do.

9. Em Dash (—)

An em dash is one of the three kinds of dash that functions like a comma, colon, or parenthesis in introducing a clause. It can separate independent clauses from a subordinate clause to help a writer expand on an idea.

Some people consider the em dash as more suitable for informal writing. But you’ll find this double hyphen in different types, even in the most formal writing.

Example:

  • The operating hours—9 AM to 9 PM—is the best choice for this business and its customers.

10. Parentheses ()

In English grammar, parentheses are used to add information to a sentence. Such a piece of information may not fit in, hence the use of punctuation to make the sentence clearer. For example:

  • The family’s arrival (which I only learned about now) was shocking.
  • I swear I saw the ghost (Do you believe in them?) during our stay at the old house.

11. Square Brackets []

Square brackets are rarely found in any piece of writing. But you use them to clarify information within quotes. In short, it’s like parentheses for direct quotations to make the quote clearer. For example:

  • According to the author, “grammar resources [should be] widely accessible to language learners.”

12. Curly Brackets {}

Curly brackets, braces, or squiggly brackets are used to group a set. They’re commonly found in mathematical sets. 

Example:

  • I already have some venue options {Pier Sixty, Tribeca Rooftop, The Foundry} for the wedding.

13. Angle Brackets <>

Whatever the goal of writing is, you’re unlikely to use angle brackets. This punctuation mark has more usage in other fields like computing or math. 

14. Quotation Marks (“ ”)

The common quotation mark or inverted commas are used to make direct quotations or repetitions of someone’s exact words or famous quotes. 

The two types of quotation marks are single quotes (` ‘) and the more common double quotation marks (” “). Single quotation marks enclose titles or draw attention to words, while double quotes are for double-quotes.

Punctuation styles differ for British English and American English. The period is within the direct quotation in British punctuation styles, while it’s outside for American English.

Here are some examples of sentences: 

  • The best Taylor Swift lyrics are, “I didn’t have it in myself to go with grace ’cause when I’d fight, you used to tell me I was brave. And if I’m dead to you, why are you at the wake?”
  • Thomas Edison once said, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent inspiration.”

15. Apostrophe (‘)

There is a wide variety of apostrophe rules you need to follow. First, you need to use the apostrophe in contractions. A contraction is when you turn two words into one by omitting one color. For example:

  • Do not – don’t.
  • I am – I’m.
  • She will – she’ll.

Another one of the apostrophe’s functions is to show the possessive form of a noun.

Examples:

  • That bag is Cornelia’s.
  • Will’s dedication is impressive.

A note on apostrophes is that you can also use them to form the plurals of letters and numbers.

Examples:

  • Three A’s.
  • Ten 12’s.

You’ll also find the apostrophe in foreign languages. French uses it in articles when a vowel has been dropped.

A common misuse of the apostrophe is placing it before an S to make nouns plural. Here’s an example:

  • Incorrect: I ate bacon’s for breakfast.

16. Slash (/)

Knowing how to use the slash will improve your knowledge of grammar. Use this punctuation mark to show relationships, alternatives, and fractions. You can also use it to substitute “per” in measurement.

Examples:

  • The home economics instructor started the class with the house/home discussion.
  • Bring a notebook/notepad so you can jot down your ideas.
  • ½ of the crowd went home after the band’s performance. 
  • The speed limit is 80 hm/h.

17. Ellipses (…)

The ellipses are a writing tool used for indicating words removed from a quote. It shows sentence endings while letting the reader know it’s incomplete. 

Example:

  • The governor stated, “The building will be… built on this land… as soon as possible.”

18. Asterisk (*)

The asterisk is a symbol that looks like a star. It’s used to show a footnote in formal writing, primarily scientific and academic writing. 

Example:

  • 25% of the respondents prefer lavender over mint.

*According to survey data from the Essential Oils Center.

19. Ampersand (&)

The ampersand replaces the word “and,” but it is not encouraged by different style guides. Use it within specific formal references like official names. 

Examples:

  • His fiancé gave her a Tiffany & Co ring as a birthday gift.
  • The law firm that Justine sought help from is Miller & Associates.
  • They gave a short performance at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

20. Bullet Point (•)

The bullet point is used for creating lists. Example:

For this project, you will need:

  • Fabric of your choice.
  • Peltex.
  • Fusible fleece.
  • Washable ink marker.
  • Coordinating thread.
  • Sewing needle.

21. Pound Symbol (#)

The pound sign is the punctuation mark for marking the number of something. It’s also now used for hashtags online. 

Not to be confused with the pound symbol for the British currency. The letter represented the libra pondo, the unit of measurement for weight in the Roman Empire.

Examples: 

  • Candace is a #1 Internationally Bestselling Author.
  • The hashtags #writing and #publishing are trending.

22. Tilde (~)

One of the many forms of punctuation you won’t always see is the tilde. Previously known as the twiddle or squiggly, this character’s informal usage means “about” or “approximately.” It also functions as an accent mark in Portuguese and Spanish words.

Example:

  • They plan to visit São Paulo this summer, but the crowd is giving them second thoughts.
  • I think Jane and I met ~3 years ago.

23. Backslash (\)

Your knowledge of punctuation will enhance once you know what a backslash is for. You won’t find it in letter writing, business writing, and other forms of writing. This punctuation mark is used for programming or coding, so don’t mix it with the forward slash.

24. At Symbol (@)

The at symbol is a substitute for the word, but only for informal writing. Its only purpose in informal writing is when you’re writing email addresses.

Example:

25. Caret Symbol (^)

The caret symbol may indicate an exponent if you can’t use the superscript function on the computer. You can also use it in proofreading.

Example:

  • 2^2 is 4, and 2^3 is 8.

26. Pipe Symbol (|)

The pipe symbol has no place in any type of writing. Its function lies in the disciplines of computing, physics, and math. 

Punctuation Adds Clarity to Your Sentences.

There you have it! I hope this guide to punctuation marks and the chart and examples helped you recognize their functions.

Using different pieces of punctuation can alter the message behind your writing. So, remember the punctuation names, and use the symbols correctly to make your writing more coherent and precise!

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