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English 7-8

7 Important Punctuation Marks Your Child Must Master

Master the 7 most important punctuation now!

We know using punctuation can be a pain. There are so many different rules to remember! This is why we made this master list of the 7 most important punctuation marks your child must master (and how to use them).

 

The 7 important punctuation marks we will discuss are:

  1. Speech marks
  2. Apostrophes
  3. Exclamation marks
  4. Commas
  5. Colon
  6. Semicolon 
  7. Parenthesis and brackets

Why do you need to know how to use punctuation?

Grammar is really important for any communication. If we don’t use the appropriate tenses or use the correct plural or singular forms in conversation, then our listeners get confused.

In written language, if we don’t use the correct punctuation, things can get even more confusing for readers. And this equates to bad marks!

Punctuation is really important because it tells readers how the different words and clauses in your sentences and paragraphs are related. If you don’t have these in your writing or misuse them, you run the risk of people – especially teachers – struggling to understand what you are trying to say.

The rules of grammar and punctuation are many, if you want a detailed guide to punctuation, check out our English Grammar Toolkit. But for now, here are 7 important punctuation marks your Year 7 or 8 child must know.

 

1. Quotation marks ( ” ” & ‘ ‘ )

There are 2 types of quotation marks: the double quotations (” “) and the single quotations (‘ ‘).

Both of them are used in different ways. Let’s see how!

 

Double quotation marks (” “)

Double quotation marks are used to signal direct quotations or dialogue. You will most likely come across them in narratives or quotes in essays.

The easiest way to remember how to properly use speech marks is the burger analogy.

The speech marks are the 2 buns and your dialogue and internal punctuation is the patty!

Have you ever seen a burger with a patty on top of 2 buns? No! That’s because the patty is always placed between the 2 buns.

This is the same with speech marks. The dialogue and punctuation marks are always between the speech marks.

Here are some examples:

  • “Remember that all punctuation marks go between the speech marks.”
  • “The dialogue and punctuation marks are the patty,” Matt said, “It always goes between the buns.”
  • Susie asked, “Have you ever left your punctuation markss outside of the speech marks?”

 

Single quotation marks (‘ ‘)

Single quotation marks are used for referencing titles (books, movies, dramas, magazines etc) or a quote within a piece of dialogue.

Remember, the burger rule still applies with single quotation marks!

Here are some examples:

  • Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ explore themes of conflict and familial relations.
  • Ellen was singing ‘Stand By Me’ for the talent quest.
  • “My mum yelled, ‘Clean this up right now!'” said Jamie.
  • Gary whispered, “And then, the Janitor shouted, ‘What are you kids doing here?'”
blog-english-7-important-punctuation-marks-your-child-must-master-speech-marks

 

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2. Apostrophes ( ‘ )

Apostrophes can be used for so many different purposes. That’s why using them can get a little confusing.

 

Possessive nouns

We use apostrophes when we want to show possession. That is showing that something that belongs to someone/something else.

The general rule of thumb is that we add an apostrophe followed by s (‘s) after the possessive noun.

For example,

  • John borrowed Alan’s pen
  • Melbourne’s weather is getting hotter

However, there are some exceptions. So, let’s dig deep into how to use apostrophes for possessive nouns.

 

a. Singular nouns

Singular nouns are generally quite simple. Your child must add an apostrophe followed by s (‘s) after the noun.

For example,

  • Rihanna’s cat
  • Toby’s car

So, what about singular nouns that end with the letter s?

 

b. Singular nouns that end with the letter s

Well, you can either add a single apostrophe (‘) after the word, OR you can add an apostrophe followed by s (‘s).

There is no right or wrong answer. However, your child must stick to one method throughout their whole writing. Ensure that they aren’t jumping between the 2 methods.

For example:

  • Cass’ drawing was very pretty
  • The bus’ wheel fell off
  • OR
  • Cass’s drawing was very pretty
  • The bus’s wheel fell off

Note: Ensure that your child does not add an additional e when showing possession.

For example, these are incorrect:

  • Cass’es drawing
  • Cass’es drawing

 

c. Exception to the above rule

Singular possessive nouns that don’t make the “esses” sound must be written with a single apostrophe (‘) after the word.

For example:

  • Socrates’ students

We don’t pronounce the possessive form of Socrates as Socratesses. It is just Socrates.

That’s why we don’t add an additional s after the apostrophe.

 

d. Plural nouns that end with the letter s 

When referring to plural nouns that end with the letter s, your child must only add a single apostrophe (‘) after the noun.

For example:

  • All the buses’ paint started to chip off.
  • Every knives’ blade was blunt.

 

e. Plural nouns that don’t end with the letter s 

There are some plural nouns that don’t end with the letter s. In this case, we add an apostrophe, followed by the letter s (‘s).

For example:

  • The children’s shoes were getting wet.
  • The alumni’s speeches were very inspirational.

 

 

Contractions

Contractions refer to the shortening of 2 words into one, by using an apostrophe.

For example:

  • Can not = can’t
  • I have = I’ve
  • I am = I’m
  • He is = he’s
  • We are = we’re
  • I will = I’ll
  • Let us = let’s
  • It was = ’twas

One major issue with using contractions is that students usually put the apostrophe in the wrong place.

The rule of thumb is that you place the apostrophe where you omitted the letter(s).

Let’s use an example from above to see how it’s done: I will

To write the contraction of ‘we are’, we remove the letters ‘wi’. So, we must replace the omitted letters with an apostrophe.

For example, I’ll

 

Poetic apostrophe (omissions)

The poetic apostrophe is something that you will only come across in creative writing, poetry, speeches, music etc.

It is used when composers shorten a word to represent a character or evoke emotion.

For example:

  • nothing = nothin’
  • 1988 = ’88
  • ever = e’er
  • rock and roll = rock n’ roll

Similar to the above rule, when you omit letter(s) from a word, you have to replace it with an apostrophe.

Remember, it is important that your child isn’t omitting letters in formal writing though! This apostrophe is only used for creative purposes.

 

Plural of single letters

Normally, you shouldn’t add an apostrophe when you use a plural form of a word.

For example, “I have 6 rubber’s” is incorrect.

However, if you are using a plural form of a letter, then you must add an apostrophe!

For example,

  • Incorrect: “He received 3 As in his report”
  • Correct: “He received 3 A’s in his report”

See how the first sentence is confusing? Without the apostrophe, we would have read ‘As’ instead of ‘A’s’.

blog-english-7-important-punctuation-marks-your-child-must-master-report

 

 

 

3. Exclamation marks ( ! )

Exclamation marks are used at the end of exclamatory statements to emphasise things and/or convey more emotions. Let’s compare some statements:

  • “Let’s go.” vs “Let’s go!”
  • “Buster ran away.” vs “Buster ran away!”
  • “That was so easy.” vs “That was so easy!”

Do you see the difference?  Exclamation marks make the statement sound more exciting and interesting.

Now that we know how exclamation marks work, let’s see how your child can properly use them in their writing.

 

Use sparingly

It is important that your child does not overuse exclamation marks because it will lose the emotional impact.

Your readers will begin to ignore the exclamation marks or even get annoyed.

For example:

“Johnny ate my ice-cream! Then, he yelled at me! I can’t believe it! I’m so mad right now!”

See how it isn’t as impactful as:

“Johnny ate my ice-cream. Then, he yelled at me! I can’t believe it. I’m so mad right now.”

So, the rule is that your child should only use exclamation marks to emphasise important ideas, exclamatory statements, interjections or evoke emotions.

 

Only use one ! at a time

We don’t want to see multiple exclamation marks at the end of a sentence like this!!!

That is incorrect.

Instead, your child should only use one exclamation mark at the end of their statements, like this!

Apart from being incorrect, using multiple exclamation marks at the end of your sentences can also lose its emotional impact and annoy readers.

blog-english-7-important-punctuation-marks-your-child-must-master-exclamation

 

 

4. Commas ( , )

Commas are one of the most common punctuation marks that you will see in a piece of writing.

However, using them can be confusing because there are so many different rules!

So, let’s go through some of the common rules for commas:

 

Separate items in a list

When your child is writing a list with at least 3 different elements, they need to use a comma to separate these elements.

Remember, your child must use a comma before the word ‘and’ if it is separating 2 different elements.

For example:

  • Gabby bought pens, notebooks, folders, and highlighters at the shops.
  • Al had to wash the dishes, do the laundry, vacuum the house, and feed the dogs.

However, if the ‘and’ doesn’t separate between 2 different elements, then your child must not use a comma.

For example:

  • Liam planned to walk the dogs, visit Martha and Lilly, buy some groceries, and pick up new plants.
  • Jemma is cooking fried chicken, roasted peas and carrots, and mash potato tonight.

In the above examples, ‘visit Martha and Lilly’ and ‘roasted peas and carrots’ are one element. That’s why there is no comma before ‘and’.

 

Separate adjectives

Similar to the above rule, your child must use a comma to separate multiple adjectives in a series.

For example:

  • The big, shiny, red car was parked in the driveway again.
  • Can you grab the big, fluffy, pink and white unicorn?
blog-english-7-important-punctuation-marks-your-child-must-master-unicorn

 

After an introductory (dependent) clause

An introductory clause is a dependent clause that begins a sentence.

This means that the clause is only made of a subject and verb and therefore, cannot be a lone sentence.

Here are some examples of dependent clauses:

  • While Nial was running
  • During the assembly
  • As time went on

Now, let’s see how we can use commas with sentences beginning with an introductory/dependent clause:

  • While Nial was running, he saw a kookaburra.
  • During the assembly, Jasmine’s phone went off.
  • As time went on, Mrs Jane knew that something wasn’t right.

 

After an introductory adverb

Similar to the above rule, your child must use a comma after an introductory adverb.

For example:

  • Finally, I can eat my cake.
  • Occasionally, Mary would buy herself an ice-cream as a treat.

 

Interrupters: Clauses/connectors in the middle of a sentence

Interrupters are basically dependent clauses or connectors which adds a thought or comment in the middle of a sentence.

If you use an interrupter in a sentence, you will need to use 2 commas: 1 to show the beginning of the interrupter and 1 to signify its end.

For example:

  • That Sunday, even though it was raining, was really fun.
  • Tommy, unlike Andy, was very good at Maths.
  • Mary’s painting, on the other hand, was very intricate.

 

Direct addresses

Your child must use a comma when they are directly referring to a character or person.

For example,

  • Mum, look at my painting.
  • Let’s eat, Johnny.

If we didn’t use a comma for direct addresses, the second example would become, “Let’s eat Johnny.” How terrifying!

 

Appositives

An appositive is a word or phrase that provides more information about the noun it follows.

Your child must use 2 commas for appositives too: 1 to introduce the appositive, and one to signify the end of the appositive.

For example:

  • Mr Tran, the Maths teacher, is shaving his head for the World’s Greatest Shave.
  • My father, Robert, is really good at fixing cars.
  • Rosie, the girl in the pink dress, will be singing at this year’s talent question.

 

Question tags

Question tags are phrases or words that are added at the end of a sentence to make it a question.

When your child uses question tags, they must place a comma before the tag.

For example:

  • The weather is beautiful today, isn’t it?
  • You’re not going to eat that all by yourself, are you?
  • The cake is supposed to look like a bowling ball, right?
blog-english-7-important-punctuation-marks-your-child-must-master-cake

 

 

 

5. Colon ( : )

A colon and a semicolon may look similar but they have different purposes! So, don’t get them mixed up. (We go through semi-colons in the next step)

The function of a colon is quite straightforward.

Colons are used to introduce simple information that directly relates to the previous clause, like lists or quotes.

It is important that your child only uses colon after an independent clause! That is a clause that can stand as a complete sentence on its own.

So, let’s see the different  ways we can use colons:

 

Lists:

Your child can use colons to introduce a list within a sentence or as bullet points.

For example:

  • They ate all sorts of food at the party: noodles, lobsters, ice cream, burritos and cake.
  • You can complete the assessment in 2 ways: an essay or a speech.

Your child must not use a colon after a connective word or a verb.

For example, these are incorrect:

  • They ate all sorts of food at the party like: noodles, lobsters, ice cream, burritos and cake.
  • You can complete the assessment as: an essay or a speech.

 

Independent clauses:

Your child can also use a colon to introduce an independent clause.

However, it is very easy to mix a semicolon and colon in this case.

Colons are only used to introduce independent clauses that are the emphasis of the sentence. It must directly link to the previous clause and should not introduce another idea.

For example:

  • I have one goal: win the race.
  • Everyone must follow this rule: no black socks.
  • The principal always makes the same announcement every morning: “Good morning, kiddos! Get ready for a very fun school day.”
blog-english-7-important-punctuation-marks-your-child-must-master-race

 

 

6. Semicolon ( ; )

Unlike colons, semicolons are used to introduce a new idea that is related to the first clause.

Here are some different ways you can use semicolons:

 

Connect 2 independent clauses

Remember, an independent clause is a clause that can work as a standalone sentence.

So, a colon, in this case, links 2 related sentences without using a connective word.

For example:

  • I bought Jace a present; it’s nearly his birthday.
  • Rosie loves croissants; she ate them nearly every day when she visited France.

 

Separate a list of elements, where the elements have internal commas

Without semicolons, lists, where multiple elements have commas, will become very confusing.

Here is are some incorrect sentences:

  • Tim visited many places on his last trip: Perth, Australia, Tokyo, Japan, Wellington, New Zealand and Seoul, South Korea.
  • Alice loved the astonishing clothes at the fashion show: long, silky, skirts, velvet, pink shirts, and puffy, leather jackets.

See how that was very confusing to read? Now, let’s use semi-colons to separate these elements:

  • Tim visited many places on his last trip: Perth, Australia; Tokyo, Japan; Wellington, New Zealand, and Seoul, South Korea.
  • Alice loved the astonishing clothes at the fashion show: long, silky, skirts; velvet, pink shirts, and puffy, leather jackets.

 

Linking 2 independent clauses where the first clause has a comma

Similar to the above rule, semi-colons replace commas when the first clause already contains a comma.

This clears up any confusion with reading the sentence.

Let’s see an incorrect example:

  •  Henry enjoys outdoor activities like bouldering, hikes and scuba diving, however, he doesn’t like surfing.

This is the correctly punctuated sentence:

  • Henry enjoys outdoor activities like bouldering, hikes and scuba diving; however, he doesn’t like surfing.

 

Linking 2 related independent clauses that use a connective word

Semi-colons can be used to connect 2 independent clauses that are linked with a connective word, instead of a full-stop.

This is useful at illustrating a stronger relationship between the 2 independent clauses.

For example:

  • The boys were told to stay away from the forbidden section of the museum; however, that just tempted them even more.
  • Ms Wilson didn’t like flowers; moreover, she was allergic to them.
blog-english-7-important-punctuation-marks-your-child-must-master-keyboard-semicolon-colon

 

 

7. Parentheses ( ( ) ) and brackets ( [ ] )

People often mix up parentheses ( ( ) ) and brackets ( [ ] ) and their functions.

However, it is important that you never use the 2 of them interchangeably.

They are 2 different punctuation. So, let’s explain what each of them is and how to use them:

 

Parentheses ( ( ) )

Parentheses are used to add more information in a sentence.

For example:

  • Yasmin’s whole bedroom was decorated in her favourite colour (blue).
  • The painting was made of abstract shapes (see Figure 5a).
  • She was a valuable asset to the company (she doubled their sales); so, they rewarded her with a pay rise.
  • James’ mother yelled at him (and a little bit at his sister) for losing her purse.

 

Brackets or square brackets ( [ ] )

You will only see brackets used in quotes.

They are used to add words or letter to clarify the quote.

For example, these sentences are unclear:

  • He planted 3 plants.
  • Tanya was one of the first to win the shooting competition.
  • Richard cheat on the test.

 

Now, let’s use brackets to clarify these sentences:

  • He [Boris] planted 3 plants.
  • Tanya was one of the first [girls] to win the shooting competition.
  • Richard cheat[ed] on the test.

 

Continue to sharpen your child’s punctuation skills

Punctuation mastery comes with practice and feedback. Matrix+ courses give students detailed theory lesson videos, discussion boards, homework help, and detailed feedback on their writing. Learn more!

Written by Tammy Dang

Tammy is a former student of Matrix and is now studying Law / Media (Screen and Sound Production) at UNSW. She is a Digital Content Writer for the Matrix Education blog. Tammy aspires to become a lawyer in the future while continuing to run her art business.

 

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