How Many Punctuation Marks Are There?

There are reportedly fourteen punctuation marks. Unfortunately, the lists I consulted do not completely agree. Some include “braces” while others list a “slash.” With consensus on the other thirteen, that makes a possible total of fifteen punctuation marks. Here are my thoughts on all fifteen:

Comma: I use them, more then I should, and always before “and” when three of more items are in a list.

Period: I used to be compelled to place two spaces after periods at the end of sentences, but not anymore; I retrained myself. When not ending a sentence, I tend to leave them out, as in PhD.

Question mark: I question if this sentence needs a question mark? (not really, but I do occasionally stumble over this)

Exclamation point: Except for here, I never use them in groups!!! I do, however, tend to overuse them, especially in emails!

Quote: Except for colons and semi-colons, all punctuation goes inside quotes – usually.

Colon: The use of colons is more art than science. I pop them in when it feels right and my proofreader fixes them.

Semi-colon: I am in love with semi-colons; I tend to overuse them; it sometimes borders on the ridiculous.

Apostrophe: Many novice writers use them when they aren’t warranted or omit them when they are. It’s and its are common stumbling blocks.

Hyphen: My tendency is to insert them where a space is needed or to remove them (without adding a space) where they are required. I think I am just ahead of my time.

Dash: I may use dashes too much — but I always use the en-dash, while dismissing the em-dash.

Ellipsis: This is a great tool when writing dialogue or making sense of a wordy quote, but other uses strike me as sloppy writing.

Parentheses: I tend to add parenthetical sentences (and thoughts) way too often.

Brackets: This is a great device to insert editorial comments. [Other than that, I know of no other use.]

Braces: Braces are lovely in appearance and elegant in design, yet I can recall no time when I have ever used them.

Slash: I’m not sure if there is a proper place to use a slash, but I often see it (and occasionally use it) when connecting two thoughts or words by inserting “and/or” between them.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

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