The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







Punctuation marks are written symbols that do not correspond to either phonemes (sounds) of a spoken language nor to lexemes (words and phrases) of a written language, but which serve to organize or clarify written language. See orthography.

The rules of what punctuation marks should be used in what circumstances vary with language, location and time. 21st century American English is very different from 15th century Italian. The rules are constantly evolving and certain aspects of punctuation are style — the author's choice. An English language bibliography may be found at the end of this article.

See History of punctuation for details.


Commonly-used punctuation marks

Some common examples used by English and other languages using the Roman alphabet are listed below (with their Unicode preferred names, where appropriate).

Because of the limited number of characters available in ASCII, many of these punctuation characters have also been given specialized meanings in computer programs composed on ASCII keyboards. The dot and commercial at in e-mail addresses are examples of this kind of use. See the individual articles.

The individual articles listed below include information on use and misuse in English and provide examples:

The following typographical symbols or glyphs are not true punctuation marks:

Also related are diacritical marks (or diacritics), which serve to distinguish among similar sounds using the same primary letter symbol, or to clarify emphasis or tone.

Each script, and each language within a script, can have its own set of punctuation marks and usage conventions.

East Asian punctuation

Chinese and Japanese use a different set of punctuation marks.

  • Some punctuation marks are similar to their equivalent Western ones, but larger, to suit the characters that surround the mark.
  • Chinese and Japanese period is a small circle (。). In Japanese written horizontally the period is placed in the same position as it would be in English; in vertical writing it is placed below and to the right of the last Character. In Chinese the period is always after the last character.
  • When the text is written vertically, the quotation marks 『』 and 「」 are used; but when the text is written horizontally both the above quotation marks and the English quotation marks, “” and ‘’, can be used.
  • In Chinese in addition, there are book title marks, 《book title》, (what in English rendered as italicization or underlining); and chapter marks, 〈chapter title〉, (what in English would be quotation marks).
  • Caesura sign (頓號 or 顿号 in pinyin: dun4 hao4), nicknamed sesame dot, is the Chinese equivalent of serial comma. It is shaped like a teardrop with the narrow sharp end pointing top-left and round end pointing bottom-right: 、 (it may be depicted on your computer in another font). In Japanese, the Chinese caesura sign is used as comma (serial or not).
  • Partition sign is a dot at the centre of a character space: . One of its uses is to separate words in a foreign name (e.g. "Leonardo da Vinci" could be written in Simplified Chinese as "列奥那多达芬奇"). See middle dot
  • Proper noun mark, which exist as underline beneath the noun, is occasionally used in Chinese (in teaching materials and some movie subtitles). When the text runs vertically, the proper name mark is written as a line to the left of the characters.
  • In Chinese, the ellipsis is written with six dots (), not three.

Korean, the third member language of CJK, currently uses Western punctuation.

Like Classical Chinese, traditional Mongolian language employed no punctuation at all. But now as it uses the Cyrillic alphabet, its punctuations are similar, if not identical, to Russian.

Other scripts

In ancient forms of Roman script, the interpunct served to separate words.

Ethiopian languages, including Amharic, Tigrinya, Ge'ez, and Afaan Oromo, make use of the following punctuation marks:

  • comma (resembles an English colon)
  • sentence end (resembles four dots at the corners of an imaginary square)
  • colon (resembels an English colon with two small horizontal lines, one above and one below)
  • semicolon (resmembles an English colon with a small horizontal line between the dots)
  • preface colon (resembles an English colon with a small horizontal line between the dots but more to the right than in the semicolon)
  • question mark (three dots in a vertical line)
  • paragraph separator (seven dots: three in a vertical line flanked by two vertical lines of two dots each, appearing as the corners of a hexagon with a dot in the center)

See also Ethiopic Script.

Legal issues

A patent has been granted for two new punctuation marks, the question comma and the exclamation comma. [1]

Further reading

See also

External links

The contents of this article are licensed from under the GNU Free Documentation License. How to see transparent copy