4 Ijesha Close, Ilupeju, Lagos
+2347 086 296 002

Punctuation Marks and Use of Capital Letters

  • Punctuation marks help sentences to assert their meanings clearly, thus making it easier for the reader to grasp the intended meaning of the writer.
  • It gives the sentence some breath of life, and accentuates the pauses and emphasis with which the writer points his meaning.
Full Stop (.)
  • A full stop marks the end of a complete sentence that is neither a direct question nor an exclamation. For example:
    • John is good.
    • Go away.
    • Jane went home yesterday.
  • It also has other uses which include:
    • to mark the end of abbreviations. For example:
      • Dr. Hill and Mr. Denzel have arrived.
      • Mrs. Jones went home yesterday.
    • to end indirect questions. For example:
      • James asked whether we have reached Oregon.
      • I wonder whether the man has arrived.
    • to denote parts of an outline. For example;
      • 1………….
      • A……………..
      • B………..
    • to end a request put in form of a question. For example:
      • May we ask you to sign and return a copy to us immediately.
The Comma (,)
  • The major function of the comma is to indicate a short pause within a sentence or two separate sentence elements which are not closely connected in the sentence.

Correct Use of Commas

  • Rule 1: Use a comma before the coordinator: ‘and’, ‘but’, ‘for’, ‘or’, ‘yet’, ‘nor’, ‘still’, when joining independent clauses. For example:
    • John became tired, and went home.
    • Jane came, but could not wait for Janet
  • Rule 2: Use a comma to separate various elements in a series of words, phrases, or clauses, when they are at least three units. For example:
    • He came home, sat down, and read the papers
    • Jack bought oranges, mangoes, and apples from the market
  • Use commas to separate contrasting expressions. For example:
    • Dick plans to leave next week, not this week
  • Use commas before a direct quotation, unless the quotation is very long, in which a colon will suffice. For example:
    • John queried, ‘have you been sent here to torment me?’
Semi-colon (;)
  • The semi-colon is used to separate two independent clauses when a coordinating conjunction is omitted, and to separate items in series where the use of a comma may cause confusion. For example:
    • Work when you work; play when you play
    • Dick wore a rain coat; however, the rain got the best of him
    • John has lived in Abakaliki, Ebonyi state; Maryland, Lagos; Bronx, New York, USA.
Colon (:)
  • A colon is used to introduce a word or clause, summarizing or contrasting, with a preceding clause. For example:
    • James’ behavior at the party last night could be summarized in a word: silly.
    • Bicycling is a variety of outdoor sports: a gymnasium of the common man.
  • It is also used before a final clause which summarizes preceding details. For example:
    • “Keep you mouth shut; keep your eyes and ears open”: those are the best pieces of military advice I still remember from my service days.
  • It is also used to express clock time. E.g. 3:30 pm
  • It is also used differentiate between the main title and the subtitle. E.g. Fast Reading: An Antidote to the Failing Standard of Education
Question Mark (?)
  • The question mark is used to denote direct question or indicate a doubt. For example:
    • What did you say he is called?
    • Jane said that she suffered a stroke?
Exclamation Mark (!)
  • The exclamation mark is used to:
    • indicate areas of special emphasis in a sentence. For example:
      • We must leave by 6 am. Don’t delay!
      • He became a commissioner immediately after his Youth Corps service. What a man!
    • to express irony. E.g. He charges only N 500 to sew a safari suit. What a bargain!
Parenthesis ()
  • Parenthesis ‘(‘ and ‘)’ are used to enclose explanatory remarks by the writer.
  • Here, no punctuation mark is used before the first curve nor is it necessary to capitalize the first word if the parenthetical statement comes within a sentence.
  • For example:
    • He finally replied (after taking 10 whole minutes) that he was going to eat the food.
Brackets ()
  • Brackets are used to enclose incidental remarks added to a quotation to make clearer the point of the sentence. For example:
    • They (first offenders) deserve the public sympathy, not condemnation
  • They are used to insert ‘sic’ after a quotation to indicate that it is accurately produced even though it may seem questionable or incorrect. For example:
    • They have altogether accepted there [sic] faiths
Hyphen (-)
  • A hyphen is used primarily to :
    • connect two or more words that make up a single expression. For example:
      • make-belief,
      • know-it-all,
      • forget-me-not,
      • brother-in-law, etc
    • join compound adjectives. For example:
      • He is a serious-minded student
      • The car had a worn-out tire.
Dash (-)
  • The dash is used to:
    • mark a sudden break or interruption or change in a sentence. For example:
      • It is Janet – not Okoro – that broke the pot
    • to emphasize interpolations. For example:
      • If James calls again – that will be the sixth time today – tell him I had just gone out
    • to introduce an explanation. For example:
      • His application was complete, except for one document – a letter of accommodation.
  • NOTE: To avoid confusing the hyphen and the dash, remember that the dash often separates, but the hyphen connects.
    • The dash can only be used in place of a comma or parentheses in handing appositive or parenthetical expressions – not the hyphen
Quotation Marks (” “)(‘ ‘)
  • Double quotation marks (” “) are used to enclose verbatim quotations, and single quotation marks to enclose a quotation, and sometimes a remark by a different writer, or even a ‘wild coinage’). For example:
    • A statement on the insurance booklet reads, “Claims must be made withing twenty-four hours of an accident”. The statement continues, “You can write ‘Approve’ against your signature at the bottom of the form if someone else filled the form for you”.
Apostrophe (‘)
  • The apostrophe is used to indicate possession, to denote contractions and to form certain plurals. For example;
    • Ladies’ suits, parents’ conference, men’s wear, etc.
    • It’s (it is, it has), aren’t (are not), etc.
    • James’s ‘s’ can hardly be distinguished from her r’s
Ellipsis (…)
  • Use ellipsis (plural: ellipses) to indicate that words, letters or sentences have been omitted in a text. For example:
    • The Persian messengers travel with a velocity …
    • Nothing human can equal …
    • … neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor darkness, are permitted to obstruct their speed
Bar (/)
  • The bar (a diagonal line) is used:
    • to form certain standard abbreviations. E.g. A/C (Account), c/o (care of), 10/7/88 (10th July, 1988)
    • to separate alternative words either of which may be used in interpretation. E.g The delivery will be made by the insurance manager and/or his agent
Uses of Capital Letters
  • Rule 1: To capitalize the first letter of the first word of every sentence. For example:
    • The heavy wind affected the telegraph line
    • John went home
    • Martins is sick
  • Rule 2: To capitalize the first letter of proper nouns and adjectives derived from proper nouns. For example:
    • Nigeria – Nigerian,
    • England – English, etc.
    • But do not capitalize if the proper nouns have acquired independent common meaning or have taken a specialized meaning. E.g. morocco (leather), china (dishes)
  • Rule 3: To capitalize the first letter of the names of months, days of the week, names of holidays. E.g. Saturday, March, New Year’s eve
    • But do not capitalize the first letter of names of seasons. E.g. winter, spring, summer, dry season, etc.
  • Rule 4: To capitalize the first letter of names of buildings, organizations and institutions, governmental agencies, departments, names of historical documents, and events. E.g. Lion building, Organization of African Unity, English department
  • Rule 5: To capitalize the first letter of names of governmental bodies, offices or courts. E.g. State House, Census Office, Supreme Court, etc.
  • Rule 6: To capitalize the first names of religious leaders, the various appellations for God and Christianity. E.g Psalm, Jesus Christ, the Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost, Acts of the Apostles
  • Rule 7: To capitalize the first letters of street names and parks. E.g Simpson Street, Murtala Mohammed Park, etc.
  • Rule 8: To capitalize the names of political parties, movement and their adherent. E.g. Nigerian Peoples Party, a Socialist, a Communist, etc.
  • Rule 9: To capitalize the fist letter of all important words in the title of books, newspaper, magazine, chapters, articles, poems. E.g. The Use of English for Higher Education
  • Rule 10: To capitalize the first letter of abbreviations of titles preceding or following a name, and the abbreviations of academic degrees. E.g. Mr. Jonas. Henry Chico, Esq. B.A. Ph.D.
Minimum 4 characters