Rules Of Punctuation

APOSTROPHE ( ’ )    

 Used to show possession, omission, and some plurals; omit it for plurals if s can stand alone without confusion.

Example: p’s and q’s; 4’s and 5’s; 1990s; YMCAs

To show possession, add an apostrophe and s to a singular word; omit s if the word already ends in ss; add an apostrophe alone to a plural word that already ends in s.

 Example: ship’s employees; boss’ idea; five days’ work; peoples’ power

With names, add an apostrophe and s to a singular word and an apostrophe alone to a plural word; use an apostrophe to distinguish between joint and separate possession.

 Example:  Vilma’s house; the peoples’ party; Jane and Vilma’s suggestion (joint); Jane’s and Vilma’s suggestions (separate)

To show omission, use an apostrophe in place of omitted letters and numbers.

 Example: he’ll (he will); ‘90s (1990s)


BRACKET   [  ]

Used around remarks and corrections that are not part of quoted material and to enclose parenthetical remarks within parentheses. No space between brackets and enclosed material.

 Example: “Yes” he said, “the maintenance program for this year [2008] is at my table.” The technical manager is facilitating the maintenance program (as he did last year [2007]).


COLON ( : )

Used after letter salutation; to show ratios and time; to introduce a list, quotation, or example (do not use after verbs such as are unless a formal listing follows); between dates and pages and between cities and publishers in references; not linked by a conjunction. Two spaces after a colon, except no space when the colon directly links two numbers as in clock time.

 Example: Dear Mrs. Reyes:;  10:1 ratio; 10:30 p.m.; the following spare parts:  piston, liner, “O” rings, cylinder head and gaskets; Digest 3 (2007): 18 – 20; Manila: Good Publishers, 2006; The master had one objective: he wanted to sail the ship safely.


COMMA ( , )

Used to separate three or more words or phrases in a series (series comma) and clauses of a compound sentence and for words omitted in a series. Set off nonrestrictive (nonessential) clauses, introductory and transitional words and phrases, words in apposition, parenthetical expression, and quoted material. One space after a comma.

 Example: pencil, paper, eraser; Ten chief marine engineers passed the examination last year; nine, this year. The marine protest, which has ten pages, is ready for submission. When you’ve finished, let me read the draft, please. Therefore, you must wait. The Manager, Mr. White, is here. “It’s true,” he said, “that they overhauled.” In January 2008, all officers and crew got their salary increased. A month earlier, they were optimistic.


DASH ( –– ) 

Used to show sudden interruption or to set off and emphasize clauses of explanation. Do not use with other punctuation marks in succession (not: “Now,––it is said-–the real work begins”). No space before or after a dash.

 Example: Pencil, paper, typewriter-–these are the tools of a writer. His new shoes-–new to him, that is––has arrived. Money––who doesn’t need it?


ELLIPSIS (. . .)

             Used to show the omission of words: three dots, words omitted at the beginning or in the middle of a sentence; four dots, words, sentences, and paragraphs omitted at the end of a sentence. There are never more than four dots, even when the end of one sentence and the beginning of the next one are omitted. Generally, one space between dots. No space between end of sentence and dot that represent a period.

 Example: According to safety committee report, “Accident increased . . . last year . . . . But a decline is expected next year.”



Used to show surprise, irony, or strong feeling (do not overuse). Two spaces after a sentence.

 Example: Oh,  no!  They lost my passport!  Hurry!  The ship is almost leaving!  Call them!


HYPHEN  ( – )

Used to divide words at the end of a line and to link compound words; in fractions; with prefixes before a proper name; and in various numbers such as telephone numbers. No space before or after a hyphen except after a suspended hyphen (two- to three-shelf unit).

Example: self-taught writer; 20-foot container; one-third; secretary-treasurer; vice-president; quasi-judicial; 4- by 6-inch cards; anti-American; 63-2-428-3477; well-organized program



Used to enclosed incidental comments and figures or letters in lists run into the text. No space between parentheses and enclosed material.

 Example: The article supported his theory (see page 8). The meeting is on Monday, March 10 (?). We need (1) Masters, (2) Engineer Officers, and (3) Deck Officers.


PERIOD ( . )

Used as decimals after numbers and letters in a list, after certain abbreviations, and at the end of a sentence. Two spaces after a sentence; no space in numbers and letters.

 Example:  3.1416; a. Fore / b. Amidships / c.  Aft; ibid.; It’s full ahead.



Used to end a direct question and to show doubt. Two spaces after a sentence; no space when enclosed in parentheses.

 Example: Is your report finished? Shall we have dinner on Monday?  Tuesday?  Wednesday? He will prepare the tools (?), but the Engineer will do the major adjustment.


QUOTATION MARKS  ( “  ”  ‘ ’ )

Used to enclose precise quotations, single marks, for quotation within a quotation; also used for titles of articles, unpublished materials, essays, television shows, short poems, and short musical works. Do not enclose indented (extract) quotations, slang, general use of the words yes  and no, or words following so-called. No space between the word quoted and quotation marks. Notice that in American style of punctuation, periods and commas are placed inside the quotation marks. Semicolons and colon are placed outside  the quotation marks.

 Example: “I know,” he said. The instructor asked us to look at the chapter “Punctuation.” This is Pedro “Pete” Cruz. I read about the so-called disturbance. The answer is no. “Now,” he said. “let us return to the poem ‘Wanderlust’ ”; then he called upon one of the student to read the opening passage.



Used to separate clauses that do not have a connecting conjunction and to separate items in a series that already has commas. No space between preceding word and semicolon.

 Example: His report is due now; in fact, it’s late. The proposed loading and discharging port include Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea; Cebu, Philippines; and proceed to the dry dock. The senior officers onboard are James Basol, master; Jonathan Wettie, chief officer; Wellie Marcus, chief engineer; and Peter Morea, second engineer.



Used in fractions, indicate alternative, as in ‘and/or’, identification numbers, abbreviations, for per, in dates (instead of a hyphen) indicating a span of periods or calendar years, and between lines of poetry run into the text. No space before or after a slash, except equal space on either side between lines of poetry.

Example: ½; Deck/Engineer officer; Table A-III/2; B/L; rev./min.; fiscal year 2008/09; as Sara Teasedale said: “I make the most of all that comes / And the least of all that goes.”