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The Use of Other Punctuation Marks in Written English

written by: Heather Marie Kosur • edited by: Rebecca Scudder • updated: 4/5/2012

Punctuation is a convention of written English that helps you to better comprehend the content you are reading. Some of these less commonly used marks include ellipses, single quotation marks, slashes, and interrobangs. They perform eleven basic functions in the English language.

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    Ellipses for Omissions

    Ellipses 1. Use ellipses marks to indicate omissions in quotations. Do not place spaces before or after the ellipsis marks. For example:

    • Dwight Eisenhower announced that the battle would be difficult but that America would triumph during his D-Day Order speech: "Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped, and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely...We will accept nothing less than full victory."
    • President Franklin Roosevelt addressed the nation, "Yesterday, December 7, 1941...the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by...the Empire of Japan."

    Place periods, question marks, and exclamation marks directly after the ellipses with omissions at the end of quotations. For example:

    • President Franklin Roosevelt addressed the nation, "Yesterday, December 7, 1941...the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked...."
    • She asked her husband, "When will you be leaving work tonight...?"
    • The little boy shouted, "The cat climbed into the tree...!"
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    Ellipses to Indicate Pauses and Interruptions in Speech

    2. Use ellipses to indicate pauses and interruptions in speech. For example:

    • The little girl told Santa, "I want a doll, a bike, play food, candy canes...but I really want a little brother."
    • The host announced, "And the winner...is Espen Welpe!"
    • "Be careful that you don't spill the...."
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    Single Quotation Marks with Quotation Marks

    Single Quotation Marks 3. Use single quotation marks to enclose direct quotations inside direct quotations. For example,

    • Talk show host Anne Smith reported, "And then the burglar said, 'But I thought I was in my own apartment.' The police did not believe his explanation."
    • Cornelia Funke introduces the character Snapper in Inkdeath with a dark joke: "Snapper emerged from the darkness and went over to the child. 'Yes, go on, take a good look!' he whispered to the little girl. 'That's really him—the Bluejay! He eats children like you for supper.'"
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    Single Quotation Marks with Translations

    4. Use single quotation marks for the translation of a foreign word of phrase. Double quotation marks can also be used to enclose translations. For example:

    • The Spanish phrase Que será será 'Whatever will be will be' is a popular expression in English.
    • Café au lait 'coffee with milk' is a French coffee drink popularized in America by New Orleans.
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    Slashes to Separate Alternatives

    Slash 5. Use slashes to separate alternatives. Do not place spaces before or after the slash. For example:

    • Please buy ice cream and/or frozen yogurt.
    • The candidate may leave his/her belongings in administration.
    • The author debates colonial binaries like West/East and white/black in the essay.

    Use hyphens to join alternatives that precede and describe nouns. For example:

    • Please discuss the good-bad conflict in the novel.
    • I particularly enjoy the Tolkien-Lewis variety of fantasy literature.
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    Slashes to Represent the Word Per

    6. Use slashes to represent the word per. Do not place spaces before or after the slash. For example:

    • miles/hour (miles per hour)
    • seconds/minute (seconds per minute)
    • days/year (days per year)
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    Slashes with Abbreviations

    7. Use slashes with certain abbreviations. For example:

    • w/ (with)
    • w/o (without)
    • c/o (care of)
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    Slashes to Indicate Line Breaks

    8. Use slashes to indicate line breaks in poetry in quotations of less than four lines. Use colons and block quotations to quote four or more lines of poetry. Place a single space before and after the slash. For example:

    • Edgar Allen Poe begins "The Raven" with an eerie description of a man in a library: "Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary, / Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore..."
    • Robert Frost ends "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" with repetition: "But I have promises to keep, / And miles to go before I sleep, / And miles to go before I sleep."
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    Slashes in Fractions

    9. Use slashes to separate numerators and denominators in numerical fractions. Do not place spaces before or after the slash. For example:

    • 1/2
    • 3/4
    • 5/8
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    Slashes with Dates

    10. Use slashes to divide the month, day, and year in the informal representations of dates. For example:

    • 1/2/03
    • 3/18/86
    • 12/25/10
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    Interrobangs to Ask Questions with Excitement or Disbelief

    Interrobang 11. Use interrobangs (?!) to ask question with excitement or disbelief. The interrobang combines the functions of question marks and exclamation marks. For example:

    • Where did you last leave the car keys?!
    • You paid how much for that haircut?!
    • The house is on fire?!
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    Printable Download

    The accompanying printable reference sheet of the rules for using braces and brackets in English is available for download at The Use of Other Punctuation Marks in Written English Reference Sheet.