We all agree that punctuation matters. Without it, meanings are lost and ideas are unclear. As teachers we need to model the correct use of punctuation, and teach our students how to punctuate their writing accurately.

Here’s a handy guide to punctuation:

Punctuation Mark Function Example
. full stop  

Marks the end of a sentence.


This teaching tip is about punctuation.

; semi colon  

Indicates a pause that is more significant than that indicated by a comma.

Can be used in place of a full stop to show that two sentences are very closely linked.

Separates items in a list when commas would be confusing.


I have an important test tomorrow; I am staying in tonight.

The door swung open; a masked figure walked in.

My favourite television characters include Olivia Benson, a detective of the Special Victims Unit; Debra Morgan, a homicide detective who does not know her brother is a serial killer; and Dr. Maura Isles, a chief medical examiner who has a hard time understanding the living.

: colon  

Marks a stronger pause than a semi colon.

Is used to introduce lists, explanations and sometimes quotations.


The striker can think of only one thing: scoring goals.

This teaching tip is about punctuation: full stops, commas and colons will feature.

() brackets  

Separates off additional information in a sentence.


This teaching tip is about punctuation (hopefully you will find it useful).

, comma  

Separates words, phrases or clauses.

Indicates pauses.


This teaching tip is about punctuation, and how we can use it accurately.

– hyphen  

Links two words together to make a compound word.

Links a phrase together so that it can be used like an adjective.

Is used at the end of a line to show that word continues on the next line.



I saw a man-eating alligator.

– dash  

Represents a short pause.

Is used instead of brackets or commas to separate off information in a sentence.


I’m busy at the moment  we’ll speak later.

I went to the park yesterday I was bored because all my friends were on holiday and played football.

… ellipsis  

Indicates that text has been left out or is incomplete.


Yet unbeknownst to anyone, there was a catch…

? question mark  

Indicates that the sentence is a question.


Do you have any questions?

‘ apostrophe  

Indicates possession.

Indicates a missing letter or letters.


Today’s teaching tip is about punctuation.

Don’t forget your pen.

! exclamation mark  

Indicates that the sentence is an exclamation or command.



” speech marks  

Shows the beginning and end of direct speech, titles or quotations.


He replied, “It was an amazing experience.”