Punctuation marks for other semantic and syntactic purposes

Introductory sentences and clauses are marked off by dashes, or brackets in case of weaker connection, to denote an explanatory, detached, additional character, pauses and lowered voice: “Then we thought we were going to have supper (we had dispensed with tea, so as to save time), but George said, no”.

Introductory sentences are often compound or complex sentences.

Such sentences are either enclosed in brackets, or set off by dashes, and may have marks of their own within the brackets, according to the rules of complex or compound sentences.

If an introductory sentence or clause comes at the end of the whole sentence, the full-stop is placed outside the second bracket. But in case of an independent introductory sentence which begins with a capital letter, there is a full-stop before the opening bracket to complete the previous sentence, and another full-stop before the closing bracket to complete the introductory sentence. Instead of a full-stop there may be a question mark or an exclamation mark, if necessary. For example: “At the foot of the ladder I called up to Pyle, “It’s me– Fowler”. (Even then I couldn’t bring myself to use my Christian name to him.)”

Appended introductory clauses, having a modal parenthetical meaning, are placed either in the middle, or at the end of a sentence, and are marked off by commas, or by dashes. These clauses are short, consisting, mainly, of a subject and a predicate: “Dinny Cherrell! Charwell they spelled it, he remembered”.

Direct speech is introduced by double (or single) quotation marks (also called ‘inverted commas’, or ‘quotes’), which are placed at the top of the line, the opening commas being inverted, the closing, regular. The closing commas come after a full-stop, a question mark, an exclamatory mark, or dots. If direct speech comes after the author’s words, it is introduced by a colon. Before a new paragraph there is a colon and a dash: “Gentlemen!” Hightower said. Then he said: “Men! Men!”

“He said distinctly: –

“Yes, I knew he was not a doctor”.

In interrupted direct speech both parts are included in double quotes. There is a comma before the author’s words (inside the quotes), and a comma after them. If necessary, there may be other marks instead of the commas: “It’s–it’s frightfully smart–but,” she smiled, “somehow it doesn’t quite seem you!”

In rare cases direct speech is introduced without any quotation marks. Single quotation marks are sometimes used to introduce direct speech: “I don’t mean what I-did, Ben said. I mean the piano. I mean the piano itself. It has a fine tone, especially for a little piano. A middle-aged clerk came over and said, How do you do? Hello, Ben said. This is a swell one”.

Non-direct speech, which introduces thoughts, meditations, somebody’s out-loud speaking to oneself, has usually no quotation marks. It is set off from the author’s words by a comma, or double commas if interrupted. In rare cases, there are quotation marks to introduce non-direct speech: “So, he said to himself, we did well to stop the quarrelling”.

Quotations are enclosed in quotation marks. In case of a secondary quotation (a quotation within a quotation), there are outer quotes (double) and inner quotes (single). Secondary quotations are usually found within direct speech: “He was their “little mystery”, their “big patriot”

Names of sputniks, luniks (moon rockets); books, poems, songs, plays, films, newspapers, magazines; theatres, cinemas; ships, boats, schooners; hotels, restaurants, inns, clubs, offices, etc., may be written in italics instead of being enclosed in quotes, when quoted.

Articles are italicized before such nouns if they belong to the names; if they do not, they are not.

Also, when quotes are used, articles are enclosed within them if they belong to the names; if they do not, they are placed outside the quotes: “He had been a member of the crew of the smuggling schooner Halcyon”.

Foreign and ironical words, obsolete and newly introduced words, strange or unusual words, are enclosed in quotes, double or single. Within direct speech single quotes are used to introduce such words: “It was his “think-machine” that had gone wrong”.

Words that do not belong to the text at all, such as translations or extra explanations, names of authors or newspapers, years and places of edition, phonetic transcription, etc., are enclosed in square brackets.

Titles and subtitles in books, in newspapers, and in stories, have no full-stops at the end. But there are exclamation marks in exclamatory titles; question marks, in interrogative titles; and dots, in implicative titles.

Addresses on envelopes, in newspapers, in letters, on invitation cards, etc., are punctuated in the following way. There is a comma between the addressee’s name and the initial letters denoting a title. In case of two or more titles, there should be a comma between each. If there is no title; a comma is placed between the addressee’s name and the house number. There is also a comma before the name of the district (not before the district number), and after the name of the town or city, if the name of the country follows. A full-stop is placed at the end of the address. In newspapers there may be a comma between the name of the street and the town.

Mr. Henry John Brown, M.A.

10 Wood Road

London, N. W.

Great Britain.

Printed by D. Young, 168

Day Street, Sydney at 21

Ross Street, Forest Lodge.

(The Tribune)

Dates: there is no punctuation mark between the number of the day, the name of the month, and the year. There is a comma after the name of the day.

19 April 1991

19th April 1991

April 19th 1991

Saturday, April 19th 1991

A comma divides the day of the month from the year: May 17, 1930

You needn’t include it if you give only the month and the year: May 1930

The comma follows the year when the date appears before the end of the sentence: She was born February 14, 1934, in Boston.

She was born on 14 February 1934 in Boston

When only the month and the year are stated, commas before and after are optional: July 1934 was the month of her birth or July, 1934, was the month of her birth.

Use a comma between the day and the date: Sunday, July 20, 1969

Letters are written either with quotation marks before each paragraph and at the end of the letter, or without them. The direct address is followed by a comma: “Cork Street: Saturday.

Bless you for your letter. Come up here to lunch Monday. We must talk. – Wilfrid”.

“Dear Doctor Manson,

Mr. and Mrs. Watkins are coming to supper with me tomorrow, Sunday evening. If you have nothing better to do, would you care to come too? Half-past seven”.


Christine Barlow

In Russian letters are quoted in the same way as direct speech is. The direct address is followed by an exclamation mark.