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Punctuation You Should Know: Apostrophes, Colons and Semicolons

Punctuation You Should Know: Apostrophes, Colons and Semicolons

Punctuation marks play a very important role when it comes to written language. Just like pauses and intonation on spoken language, failure to include punctuation marks can change the entire message of a sentence, which makes using proper punctuation super important for writers. Let us discuss some of the important punctuation marks that we use on a daily basis.



Ugg. From my close observation and research, this punctuation mark ranks among the most abused in the English language. Just check posters, adverts and various ads in your neighbourhood and you will agree on the same. Even though we encounter the use of the apostrophe in our daily lives, many people tend to mess it up. This punctuation mark serves only two purposes:

  • Show possession

The addition of an apostrophe at the end of a proper noun indicates the noun owns a particular object. Basically, we use an apostrophe to reduce the number of words in a particular piece of writing. For instance, we can say ‘Party of Peter’. To make it nicer to the eyes and ear, we write 'Peter’s party.'

In other cases some words end with an S and we still want to show possession. In this case, you can put an apostrophe at the end of the word after the S. For example: "The classes' (multiple classes, so it's plural) book was very long." "Go pick up the cats' (multiple cats) toys."

  • Show omission of a word or letter

This punctuation mark can show that some letters and words have omitted intentionally. Instead of writing, I am, you can use this punctuation mark and the word will become I’m. Pick ‘n’ mix is also the short form for pick and mix. ’89 is the short form for 1989. It's is short for it is.


When you see two dots before a statement, the writer wants to say, ‘this is what I mean’. The colon as a punctuation mark has three primary uses which include:

  • Introducing a list of items.

For example, "The bookstore specializes in four subjects: graphic design, architecture, art and crafts."

  • Punctuation between two independent clauses where the second clause illustrates or explains the first one

"He has little knowledge of the English language: He grew up in China."

  • Emphasis

We also use the colon to make a statement, word or phrase more powerful.

"Working 20 hours a week as a personal driver and covering for all his family members: that was his dream job."


Most of us use colons and semicolons interchangeably which should not be the case. The following are some of the uses of a semicolon:

  • It join clauses that are independent but related

The words before the semicolon form a complete sentence or phrase while those after the semicolon also make sense as a sentence. The two statements will also share a logical connection.

"Mary has gone to the library; John has gone to play basketball."

  • It's used in a serial list

When you want to list a number of things in one sentence, the semicolon comes in handy.

"I need accommodation rates for the following cities: London, Ontario; London England: Paris, Ontario; Paris; France."



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