Compare the following:-
1. John says Smith is a fool.
2. "John," says Smith, "is a fool."
From these two sentences it is clear that stops may alter the sense of a sentence. Punctuation means the right use of such stops.
The principal stops are:-
1. Full Stop (.)
2. Comma (,)
3. Semicolon (;)
4. Colon (:)
5. Note of Interrogation (?)
6. Note of Exclamation (!)
7. Inverted Commas (" ")
8. Apostrophe (')
The Full Stop
The Full Stop or Period represents the longest pause. It is used-
a) To mark the end of an Assertive or Imperative Sentence; as,
Honesty is the best policy.
Shut the door.
He is back from Canada.
b) After abbreviations and initials; as,
M.A., Co., M.L.A, etc.
The Comma marks the shortest pause. It is used-
a) To mark off words in apposition; as'
Alexander, the conqueror of the world, began to weep.
b) To mark of the nominative of address; as,
O King, I am thy humble servant.
c) To separate two or more parts of speech that come together; as,
Health, wealth and peace go together.
NOTE: Nowadays a Comma is generally omitted before and.
4) After an absolute construction; as,
Having done his work, he went to bed.
5) Before and after a Participle Phrase, provided that the participle might be expanded into a sentence, and is not used in a merely qualifying sense; as,
The King, having defeated his enemies, returned to his country.
6) To separate each pair of words of the same class or kind; as,
Rich and poor, high and low, young and old, all must die.
7) To separate words, phrases or clauses inserted into the body of a sentence; as,
Her behaviour, to say the least, was extremely rude.
8) To avoid the repetition of a Verb; as,
Sheetal is a painter; Tanya, a singer.
9) To separate a Subordinate Adverb Clause from the rest of the sentence; as,
If you have a watch, tell me the time.
10) To separate short Co-ordinate Clauses of a Compound Sentence; as,
I came, I saw, I conquered.
11) To mark off a direct quotation from the rest of the sentence; as,
"Try and try again," said the teacher.
The Semicolon represents a pause greater than that indicated by the Comma. It is used-
1) To separate the clauses of a Compound Sentence, if they contain commas; as,
As Caesar loved me, I weep for him; as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was valiant, I honour him.
2) To separate a series of loosely connected clauses; as,
Reading maketh a full man; speaking a ready man; writing an exact man.
The Colon represents a pause still longer than that indicated by the Semicolon. It is used-
1) Before enumeration; as,
Shakespeare's four great tragedies: Othello, King Lear, Hamlet and Macbeth.
2) To introduce a quotation. It is often followed by the Dash (-); as,
Bacon says:- "Reading maketh a full man."
The Note of Interrogation
The Note of Interrogation is used to mark direct questions; it should not be used in Indirect Speech.
"What is your name?"
I asked her what her name was.
The Note of Exclamation
The Note of Exclamation is used after Interjections, Exclamatory Phrases and Exclamatory Sentences; as,
Bravo! We won the match.
Inverted Commas are used to mark the exact words of the speaker, or a quotation; as,
He said, "I am going to Germany for higher studies."
The Apostrophe is used to show possession; as,
The girl's father, The baby's cry, etc.
The use of Capital Letters
A Capital Letter is used-
1) To begin a sentence; as,
That book is based on Philosophy.
We’ll reach the venue on time.
2) To begin each fresh line of poetry.
3) To begin all Proper Nouns and Adjectives formed from them; as,
May, the English language, etc.
4) For all Nouns and Pronouns which indicate God; as,
O God, Thou art merciful.
5) To write the Pronoun 'I' and the Interjection 'O'.
6) For degrees, titles, etc.; as,
Master of Science, B.Com, Madam, etc.
7) For Interjections and the beginning of quotations; as,
Alas! My God!
The proverb says, "Out of sight, out of mind."