What Are the Different Uses of Punctuation?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 09 October 2019
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Most uses of punctuation are intended to express some type of meaning, regardless of the setting in which the punctuation is used. In written language, for example, punctuation is typically used to expand upon the meaning of what is said in words often by ending a sentence or expressing emotion. Punctuation can also be used in mathematical notations, often with different meanings than in written language, though such meanings have begun to expand from the mathematical uses into written language. There are also some uses of punctuation outside of common grammar or mathematics, including notation for chess and computer programming.

Regardless of which punctuation marks are used and the setting in which they are used, many uses of punctuation have some attributes in common. Punctuation is typically used to express meaning or expand upon what is around it in some symbolic way, allowing text to go beyond what is presented at a surface level. In written language, for example, punctuation is typically used to present information about what is expressed in words. A period allows readers to understand when an idea comes to a conclusion as the sentence ends, commas and semicolons can be used to break up complex ideas, and question marks and exclamation points allow a reader to better understand the purpose of a writer’s words.


There are also uses of punctuation outside of language, especially in mathematics. Beyond simple notations such as plus and minus signs, there are also other punctuation marks that can have meaning in math. The > and you” to say that he or she is better than someone else.

A number of uses of punctuation have also gone beyond standard written language or altered written language. In chess notation, for example, exclamation points and question marks are often used to indicate moves that are quite good or moves of questionable effectiveness. Computer programming uses numerous punctuation marks to indicate various concepts within a certain language or syntax, often for separating parts of code or beginning and ending a command line. The rise of text and instant messaging has also expanded the uses of punctuation in written language through the development of emoticons and other symbols to quickly express ideas through non-verbal means.


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Post 2

@SailorJerry - As far as the citation rules, there is software available now that will make your citations for you, and then you just have to check over them. No need to memorize since you can do it with the book in hand (or Purdue's OWL website open). RefWorks and Endnote are two examples. If you are a student, chances are good you have access to one through your college library.

A lot of people think that learning how to use correct punctuation in written sentences is not important either, but almost all of the punctuation rules have the potential to prevent confusion. Using punctuation consistently means that when something confusing comes up, readers will know what is meant. For instance, if you use apostrophes correctly, than "my parent's house" says that there is only *one* parent, and this is his or her house. If there is more than one, it needs to be "parents' house."

Post 1

Another use of punctuation rules is for meeting certain conventions. For instance, all the different style guides have rules for how a citation should be punctuated. Should the article title be in quotation marks or not? Should there be a comma after the author's name? etc.

It drives me batty! I just feel like people have better things to do than to memorize a million punctuation rules.

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