Usage of Punctuation Marks: A Guide for CAT

Punctuation marks can be confusing to place in a sentence. Reading Comprehension tests you on understanding a passage completely. However, you will only be able to understand a passage if you know how it is structured to mean. This article will help you understand the nuances of the usage of punctuation marks in a sentence.

Punctuation marks and understanding its usage is essential for completely grasping a sentence in the VARC (Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension) Section  in the CAT exam. Not only that, but also, Punctuation marks in a sentence can make or break a sentence. That’s why, it’s essential to have a firm understanding of punctuation marks.

This 7-minute article serves as a quick guide to understand all the punctuation marks used commonly.

Punctuation Marks: A Guide

 

1. Period

The Period ‘.’ (or most commonly knows as full stop) when used marks the end of a sentence. It is also used to abbreviate abbreviations.

Example:
  • I went to a store downtown.
  • Let me introduce you to Dr. Michael here.

2. Exclamation Mark

The Exclamation Mark (or point) ‘!’ marks the end of a sentence. However, it only expresses sentences with great or sudden emotions, unlike Periods.

Example:
  • Wow! What an amazing show!
  • Alas! I lost the match.

3. Question Mark

The Question Mark ‘?’ marks the end of any question, typically. Mostly, This is put after interrogative sentences.
Example:
  • Would you like a cup of tea?
  • How are you doing today?
  • Where are my keys?
  • Weren’t you home yesterday?

4. Commas

The Comma (,) is widely used in long texts. The comma has a variety of uses in a sentence. It is commonly used to break up sentences to clarify a sentence. Additionally, this punctuation mark separates the additional information in a sentence. This method helps in clarification of the sentence.

Example:
  • Addressing separately: “Where are you, Sameer?”
  • Combining two separate sentences: I wish were in Canada right now, but everything happens for a reason.
  • Separating an additional piece of information: Dr. Sameer, a renowned paediatrician, prescribed him medicines.
  • Marking a list of items: I need to buy a banana, an apple, and an orange from the fruits’ market.

Note: There is common confusion whether to use a comma or not between the last two items in a list

  • Buy me some pencils, pens, and a pencil case.
  • Buy me some pencils, pens and a pencil case.

As you can see, writing the sentence in either of the ways doesn’t really make a difference. The usage of a comma between the last two items in a list depends on personal preference. Both of the ways are acceptable in written English.

5. Semicolons

Although the Semicolon (;) is a half colon and comma, its usage is not similar to either of those punctuation marks.  It typically links two independent clauses in a sentence, the clauses which complement each other but are sentences with independent meanings.

Example:
  • Amy cannot fix her tie; she just doesn’t know how to.
  • It’s okay to be not okay; we’re all in the same boat truly.

Semicolons are also put at the end of a list to clarify the implications of sentence better.

  • We need the following tools to fix this car: Screwdrivers, pilers, wrenches, and a hammer; two bottles of diesel, and a small piece of scrap.

6. Colons

The colon (:) is one of the common punctuation marks. They have various uses, like in ratios (3:2), time (12:00 pm), or the indication of a list, a definition or an example that follows.

  • Conservation: The protection of animals, plants, and natural resources.
  • You require the following ingredients to make a cake: Flour, baking powder, baking soda, milk, and vanilla essence.

7. Hyphens

The Hyphen (-) is used in compounds words, especially to string together two words to generate another meaning.

Example:
  • It was an awe-inspiring speech.
  • It was a nerve-wracking experience.

8. En Dash

The En Dash (–) links two things together, like dates (1999-2003), or shows a range ( 24 Km/Hour – 55 Km/Hour).

9. Em Dash

The Em Dash (—) is usually twice as long as an En Dash. It has multiple uses. It can break up sentences, separate additional information from a sentence, or make a stuffy sentence seem more readable.

Example:
  • Multiple languages are spoken in India — Hindi, Urdu, Malayalam, Marathi and other region-specific languages.
  • KFC’s franchise is spread all over the world — North America, the Middle East, Europe, Asia-pacific, Australia.
  • I should better get ready now—the orchestra will start any minute now.
  • I am done with breakfast—oh well, almost done.

10. Apostrophe

An Apostrophe (‘) marks the possession of an article by someone or the contractions in a sentence.

Example:
  • She’s going to the Cinema this weekend.
  • Isn’t she all right after taking a rest-day?
  • It is Matthew’s Violin.

11. Quotation Marks

The Quotation marks (” ”) are put over a sentence to either show that it is a quote, or to signify that it was spoken by someone. We also use single quotes (‘ ‘) within a double quotes’ sentence (” ”) to signify a clearer meaning.

Example:
  • “I am so proud of you, son.”, said Mother.
  • “It’s Peter’s desk. Don’t you dare sit there!”, shouted Alyssa.

Note: In a quoted question, the question mark can come either before or after the quotation marks. However, the common practice is to put the question mark before the ending quotation mark.

  • “Are you all right, Jamie?”, Said I.

 

We hope you found this article useful!

Leave feedback or any doubts you have in the comments’ section below.

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