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  English Punctuation  
Punctuation is used to create sense, clarity and stress in sentences. You use punctuation marks to structure and organize your writing. Punctuation in the English language helps the reader to understand a sentence through visual means other than just the letters of the alphabet. English punctuation has always had two complementary sides: on the one hand, there is phonological punctuation linked to how the sentence can be read aloud, particularly to pausing, and on the other side, grammatical punctuation linked to the structure of the sentence. In popular discussion of language, incorrect punctuation is often seen as an indication of lack of education and of a decline of standards.


Punctuation Infogram

Oxford Dictionary Punctuation



Grammatical Punctuation:

  • Measurements
    • Currency $ ¢ €
    • Time = 12:00 PM
    • Dates = 12/31/2020
    • Temperature = 32°F = 0°C
    • Acidity = pH
    • Weight = 1lb - 16oz.
    • Distances = m = yard
    • Areas = m² = (hect)acres
    • Volumes = m³ = gallons
    • Fractions = 1/100 = 1%
  • Capitalization
    • Cases
    • Sentences
    • I
    • Proper Nouns
    • Personal Titles
    • Publication Titles
  • Sentence Endings
    • Period. Full Stop.
    • Question Mark?
    • Exclamation Point! Mark!
  • Connectors
    • Hyphens-
    • Dashes - –
    • Slash /
    • Vertical Bar |
  • Quotations
    • "Quotation Marks"
    • 'Apostrophes'
    • "" Ditto "..."
    • Ellipsis...
  • Asides
    • (Parenthesis) (British Brackets)
    • [Brackets] [Square Brackets] { } ⟨ ⟩
    • For Example (e.g. )
    • It Is Precisely (i.e. )
    • *Asterisk
    • Footnotes¹2 [3]
  • Lists
    • Commas,
    • Colons:
    • Semicolons;
    • • Bullet Points •
    • Lists 1. A. a. 1a.
  • S p a c i n g
    • Word Spacing
    • Sentence Spacing
    • Double Spacing
    • Character & Paragraph Styles
    • Kerning




# "Pound Sign" (#hashtag) is used to represent any number (like x+y=z algebra)

We use latin symbols for #s: plus +, minus -, divided by ÷ (/), multiplication "times" x (*)

"Equal to" equals =, not equal ≠, less than < ≤, greater than > ≥


Currency $ ¢ €

The American Dollar is represented with the dollar sign: $1 USD ($1.00 dollars)

The American "Penny" is "One Cent": 1¢ ($0.01 cents)

The British use a "Pound" of sterling silver: £ (Penny Sterling = 1£sd pence)

after the UK Brexited from the EU's euro: € EUR (no penny)

Czech money is "Czech Crown" or "Czech Koruna": Kč ("h" not circulated)



American usage dictates a colon (e.g., 10:30 PM). British usage dictates a period between the hours and minutes when writing the time (e.g., 10.30).

American also use a 12-hour clock (7:00 PM or 7:PM), not the 24-hour clock (19:00). Americans perceive the 24-hour clock as military time (because in the military 0600 is 6:AM and 2200 is 10:PM).



British usage omits the apostrophe in the plural form of dates (e.g., 1980s), whereas the American practice more often includes it (e.g., 1980’s). The British style is gaining ground in America, however.

Though not necessarily a matter of punctuation, there is one important distinction between American and British usage when it comes to dates. American usage puts the month first, followed by the day, and then the year. Hence, 12/5/2010 means December 5, 2010, in American usage. The British practice (followed in most of the world) is to put the day first, followed by the month. Hence, 12/5/2010 means May 12, 2010, in British usage. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has established the YYYY-MM-DD format, in which December 5, 2010, would be written 2010-12-05. Writing out the month will avoid confusion.

12/31/2020 – 12-31-2020 – 12.31.2020


Temperature = -40°F - 110°F

Water freezes at 0°F and boils at 212°F

Acidity = 0pH < 7pH < 14pH

Lower than 7.45pH is acidic, Higher than 7.55pH is basic

Weight = 16oz. (ounce) = 1lb (pound) = 0.45 Kg

Used to buy commodities and foods - or as "liquid ounces" for beverages.

Distances = 12" Inches = 3'-0" Feet = 1 yard = 91.44cm

1 Mile = 1.60934 Km

Areas = 1 Acre = 0.4 Hectacres = 4046.86m²

Used to measure homes and land.

Volumes = 1m³ = 1000L = 264.2 Gallons

Used mostly for gasoline, milk, water, liquids, and beverages

Fractions = 1/100th < 100% Percent

Universal - but beware most American units are not 1/100 nor 1/1000 metrics!

... even the Megabyte is actually = 1024 Bytes



Capitalization means using a capital letter (for example, [A] instead of [a]) . The use of capital letters helps readers read your writing without confusion.

The two major national styles of punctuation are British and American; the former is also called "logical quotation" where it pertains to quotation marks. These two styles differ mainly in the way in which they handle quotation marks with adjacent punctuation.

"Additionally, punctuation can be open or closed. Open punctuation eliminates the need for periods and other marks at the end of a sentence. Periods are not used in abbreviations or acronyms and the Oxford comma is absent. In contrast, closed punctuation uses commas and periods in a strict manner.


Paragraph "Cases" in English

In English, we usually only capitalize our writing as sentence case or rarely in title case. However don't be surprised if you see text messages from mobiles in all lowercase or even title case, due to the difficulty of use for most people. We do not use any accents nor special characters in normal English writing (only in dictionary phonetic spellings to learn pronunciations by reading from paper books). We also sometimes substitute ALLCAPS for bold, italics, and underlines for emphasis or links in modern digital writing, however ALL CAPS is usually regarded as rude and obnoxious SHOUTING - and can actually get your posts blacklisted when used in titles, descriptions, and posts on social networks like Facebook (but is useful for emphasis in chat and private messages that do not allow bold or italics formatting).

  1. lowercase
  2. Uppercase
  3. Title Case
  4. Sentence case.
  5. ALL CAPS (headlines, logos, menus)


Always capitalize the following:

The first word in a sentence.

  • I grew up in America.
  • She left a message on my phone.

The pronoun I.

  • This country is where I dreamed of freedom.

The first letter of a proper noun (specific name).

  • David wants to play soccer with us.
  • This letter is from Ariana.
  • I graduated from the University of New York.
  • I like Coca-Cola.
  • She likes Godiva chocolates.

The first letter of months, days, and holidays (but not seasons).

  • Today is June 8, 2011.
  • Susie's birthday is this Thursday.
  • The shops are closed on Easter.
  • This summer is going to be very hot.

The first letter of nationalities, religions, races of people, and languages.

  • We often eat Italian food.
  • I want to master many languages, such as Czech, Slovak, German, and Russian.
  • There is one Christian church in my town.

The first letter in a person's title.

  • This is Dr. Syverson.
  • I received an email from Mrs. Syverson.

Geographic areas: cities, states, countries, mountains, oceans, rivers, etc.

  • My destination is Prague, Czech Republic.
  • Hawaii is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Historical periods.

  • The Renaissance began in the 14th century.
  • The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty in China.

The first letter of each major word in the title of a book, movie, article, etc.

  • Tolstoy's War and Peace is my favorite novel.
  • I found the article "How to Write a Good Cover Letter" in this magazine.



Correctly write each sentence using proper capitalization.

1) i was born in shanghai, china, but grew up in the united states.
2) mrs. ohana gave me the bible.
3) if you walk two more blocks, you will be able to see mt. rocky.
4) my family will have a summer vacation in hawaii.
5) I didn't want to cook tonight, so I just ordered thai food for dinner.



Ending Sentences. ! ?

3 of the 14 punctuation marks are appropriate for use as sentence endings. They are the period. question mark? and exclamation point!


Period. Full Stop.

The period (.) is placed at the end of declarative sentences, statements thought to be complete and after many abbreviations.

For example:

  • As a sentence ender: Jane and Jack went to the market.
  • After an abbreviation: Her Feb. birthday came and went.
  • Personal Titles: Mrs. Syverson & Dr. Tereza Syverson

American vs. British Titles

In American English: Dr. Mr. Mrs. Ms. St. Ave. Rd. Ct. all take periods.
In British English, the periods (full stops) are omitted Dr Mr Mrs Ms St Ave Rd Ct


Question Mark?

Use a question mark (?) to indicate a direct question when placed at the end of a sentence. For example: When did Ariana leave for the market?


Exclamation Point! Exclamation Mark!

The exclamation point/mark (!) is used when a person wants to express a sudden outcry or add emphasis.

  • Within dialogue: “Holy cow!” screamed Jane.
  • To emphasize a point: My mother-in-law's rants make me furious!
  • ALL CAPS = is considered rude shouting an exclamation in email or text chat!!!!
  • Censorship: F#$!



Connectors: Hyphens- & Dashes –


A hyphen (-) is the same symbol as the endash. However, it has slightly different usage rules. A hyphen is used between the parts of a compound word or name or between the syllables of a word, especially when divided at the end of a line of text.

Examples of hyphens in use include:

  • Between a compound name: Mrs. Smith-Reynolds
  • Within a compound word: back-to-back
  • Hyphen-minus means a negative number: -1
  • Hyphens in prefixes
  • Hyphens in compound-nouns
  • Hyphens in compound-adjectives
  • Alternatives to hyphens in compound adjectives
  • Hyphens between numbers
  • Hyphens between words
  • Hyphens in ages


Dashes – -

Two kinds of dashes are used throughout written communications. They are the [N] endash and the [M] emdash. An endash is a symbol (-) that is used in writing or printing to connect numbers or to connect elements of a compound adjective, such as 1880 - 1945 or Princeton - New York trains.

However, the emdash has more complicated grammatical use. The symbol of —­ is used to:

  • Indicate a break in thought or sentence structure
  • Introduce a phrase added for emphasis, definition, or explanation
  • Separate 2 clauses

Use it in the following manner:

We only wanted to get two birds - but the clerk talked us into four pregnant parakeets.

  • M—dash vs. N-dash
  • Dashes between dates
  • Hyphens versus dashes
  • Dashes as parenthetical punctuation


The Slash / Slashes

The slash or stroke or solidus ( /, ⁄ ) is often used to indicate alternatives, such as "his/her", or two equivalent meanings or spellings, such as ""grey/gray".

Despite its popularity, the slash (/), technically known as a "virgule" (french comma), is frowned upon by purists. Other than to indicate dates (9/11/2001) or to separate lines of poetry ("Celery, raw / Develops the jaw"), it has few defensible uses.

Usually a hyphen, or in some cases the word or, will suffice. Instead of writing the novelist/poet Eve Jones, make it the novelist-poet Eve Jones. Rather than available to any man/woman who is qualified, make it any man or woman.

The slash has always been a handy tool for taking notes and writing rough outlines. Substituting w/o for without, y/o for years old, and b/c for because can save valuable time and space.

However, most slashes can — and should — be removed from a final draft. Writers should replace a construction like any man/woman with any man or woman in their finished work.

"The virgule is a mark that doesn't appear much in first-rate writing," says Bryan A. Garner in A Dictionary of Modern American Usage. "Use it as a last resort."


The Pipe Character |

The vertical bar ( | ) is a computer character and glyph with various uses in mathematics, computing, and typography. It has many names, often related to particular meanings: Sheffer stroke (in logic), verti-bar, vbar, stick, broken bar, vertical line, vertical slash, bar, glidus, obelisk, or pipe character.

The pipe character is often used in website meta tag titles to indicate a bread-crumb trail showing the web server's URL path for the current HTML file.



'Apostrophes' "Quotation Marks" & Elipsis...


An apostrophe (') is used to indicate the omission of a letter or letters from a word, the possessive case, or the plurals of lowercase letters.

Examples of the apostrophe in use include:

  • Omission of letters from a word: An issue of nat'l importance.
  • Possesive case: Sara's dog bites.
  • Plural for lowercase letters: Six people were told to mind their p's and q's. It should be noted that, according to Purdue University, some teachers and editors enlarge the scope of the use of apostrophe, and prefer their use on symbols (&'s), numbers (7's) and capitalized letters (Q&A's), even though they are not necessary.
  • Apostrophes for possession
  • Apostrophe placement rules
  • Apostrophe after s
  • Apostrophe after z
  • Apostrophe before s
  • Apostrophes for awkward plurals
  • Apostrophes after acronyms and abbreviations
  • Apostrophes in contractions
  • Apostrophes in expressions like 2 years' pay and a day's notice
  • Apostrophes used incorrectly for plurals
  • Apostrophe exercises
  • Apostrophes in names
  • Apostrophe misuse
  • Apostrophes in contractions


"Quotation Marks"

Quotations marks ( “ ” ) are a pair of punctuation marks used primarily to mark the beginning and end of a passage attributed to another and repeated word for word. They are also used to indicate meanings and to indicate the unusual or dubious status of a word.

Single quotation marks (') are used most frequently for quotes within quotes.

The ellipses mark is generally represented by three periods (... ) although it is occasionally demonstrated with three asterisks (***). The ellipses are used in writing or printing to indicate an omission, especially of letters or words. Ellipses are frequently used within quotations to jump from one phrase to another, omitting unnecessary words that do not interfere with the meaning. Students writing research papers or newspapers quoting parts of speeches will often employ ellipses to avoid copying lengthy text that is not needed.

„...“ "American"! "British!" „Czech“

American style uses double quotes (“) for initial quotations, then single quotes (‘) for quotations within the initial quotation.

  • “Economic systems,” according to Professor White, “are an inevitable byproduct of civilization, and are, as John Doe said, ‘with us whether we want them or not.’”

British style uses single quotes (‘) for initial quotations, then double quotes (“) for quotations within the initial quotation.

  • ‘Economic systems’, according to Professor White, ‘are an inevitable byproduct of civilization, and are, as John Doe said, “with us whether we want them or not”’.

The above examples also show that the American style places commas and periods inside the quotation marks, even if they are not in the original material. British style places unquoted periods and commas outside the quotation marks. For all other punctuation, the British and American styles are in agreement: unless the punctuation is part of the quoted material, it goes outside the quotation marks.

The French & Iowans use the « Guillemet » when quoting text that also contains a quote, especially in the Des Moines metropolitan region. E.g. « The governor answered "As I look back on my years of public service, I am thankful for those Iowans who have stepped forward to serve their fellow citizens." ». This practice is a specialization of the traditional French usage and dates back to use by the Iowa Star, now called the Des Moines Register, and is a local custom.

  • Quotation marks within quotation marks
  • Quotations marks for the names of ships, plays, etc.
  • Quotation marks and punctuation placement
  • Quotation marks meaning alleged or so-called
  • Quotation marks and ellipsis...
  • Quotations marks and punctuation before a quote
  • Quotation marks with multiple paragraphs

Double quotes can also be used to represent the term "ditto", which literally means repeating the same exact phrase again. "" means ditto when it directly follows another quote, or "..." could either be silence or an omission like the Ellipsis...



A set of dots (…) indicating an ellipsis, literally signifies the omission from speech or writing of a word or words that are superfluous or able to be understood from contextual clues. "It is very rare for an ellipsis to occur without a linguistic antecedent". An elipsis can also mean "to be continued"...

... and begin on a following line to say "now we continue" again from where we left off!



Asides: (Parentheses) [Brackets] {Braces}

Brackets, braces and parentheses are symbols used to contain words that are a further explanation or are considered a group.

Parentheses ( ) are curved notations used to contain further thoughts or qualifying remarks. However, parentheses can be replaced by commas without changing the meaning in most cases. For example: John and Jane (who were actually half brother and sister) both have red hair.

Brackets are the squared off notations [ ] used for technical explanations. A dictionary uses them when you look up word definitions. At the bottom of online definition pages, brackets surround a technical description of where the word originated.

Braces { } are used to contain two or more lines of text or listed items to show that they are considered as a unit. They are not commonplace in most writing, but can be seen in computer programming to show what should be contained within the same lines.

Chevrons or Angle Brackets ⟨ ⟩ similar to the commonly used less-than (<) and greater-than symbol (>), are often used to enclose highlighted material. In physical sciences, chevrons are used to denote an average over time or over another continuous parameter.

  • Parenthesis (Round brackets)
  • [Square] brackets
  • Brackets and punctuation placement
  • Choice of parenthetical punctuation
  • For Example (e.g. )
  • It Is Precisely (i.e. )
  • *Asterisk
  • Footnotes¹



Lists = Commas, Semicolons; Colons:


The comma, semicolon and colon are often misused because they all can indicate a pause in a series.

The comma is used to show a separation of ideas or elements within the structure of a sentence. Additionally, it is used in letter writing after the salutation and closing.

  • Separating elements within sentences: Suzi wanted the black, green, and blue shoes.
  • Letter Salutations: Dear Uncle John,
  • Separation of two complete sentences: We went to the movies, and we went to the beach.
  • Commas with Dear, Hello, and Hi
  • Commas after a dependent clause
  • Commas after words like however and consequently
  • Commas after interjections
  • Commas before words like and, or, and but
  • Commas for parenthesis
  • Commas in lists
  • The comma run-on error
  • The Oxford Comma
  • Commas with long subjects
  • Commas in numbers
  • Commas with quotation marks
  • Commas with direct address
  • Commas and however



The semicolon (;) is used to connect independent clauses. It shows a closer relationship between the clauses than a period would show. For example: John was hurt; he knew she only said it to upset him.

  • Semicolons for a smoother break than a full stop / period
  • Semicolons in lists with commas
  • Semicolons before words like however and consequently
  • Semicolons before words like and, or, and but



A colon (:) has two main uses:

  • After a word introducing a quotation, an explanation, an example, or a series. It is also often used after the salutation of a business letter.
  • Within time expressions. Within time, it is used to separate out the hour and minute: 12:15 p.m.
  • Colons before long quotations
  • Colons with bullet points
  • Colons for introductions
  • Colons in references
  • Colons to expand on something previously mentioned in a sentence
  • Colons before lists
  • Colons versus semicolons
  • Capital letters after colons


Bullet Points •

Bullet points can be in a variety of shapes, solid or hollow, or indented a various intervals.


Lists 1. A. a. 1a. IVX

We use roman numerals and a variety of numbering systems for bulleted lists or outlines.



S p a c i n g

Word Spacing

In sentences, words have one space between them.


Sentence Spacing

Sentences have 2 spaces after them in traditional writing; in HTML 1 space works better.


Double Spacing

Traditional typewriters and feeded printers used either single spacing or double spacing.


Character & Paragraph Styles

Modern computer applications facilitate both character and paragraph styles. Character styles involve font, size in points, height and width as %, bold, italics, underlined, and strikethrough. Paragraph styles involve spacing between the words, indents, and margins; which are typically: left, right, centered, or full justified.



Kerning allows graphic designers to manipulate the spaces between the letters for columns.



Basic English Grammar Lessons:

  1. Parts of Speech
  2. Vocabulary
  3. Nouns
  4. Pronouns
  5. Verbs
  6. Adjectives
  1. Adverbs
  2. Prepositions
  3. Conjunctions
  4. Articles
  5. Tense
  6. Gerunds
  1. Infinitives
  2. Passive Voice
  3. Mood
  4. Interjections
  5. Capitalization
  6. Punctuation

Learning Conversational English


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