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Punctuation

Punctuation marks are written symbols that do not correspond to either phonemes (sounds) of a spoken language nor to lexemes (words and phrases) of a written language, but which serve to organize or clarify written language. See orthography.

Some common examples used by English and other languages using the Roman alphabet are listed below (with their Unicode preferred names, where appropriate).

Because of the limited number of characters available in ASCII, many of these punctuation characters have also been given specialized meanings in computer programs composed on ASCII keyboards. The dot and commercial at in e-mail addresses are examples of this kind of use. See the individual articles.

The individual articles include information on use and misuse in English and provide examples.

The following typographical symbols or glyphs are not true punctuation marks:

Also related are diacritical marks (or diacritics), which serve to distinguish among similar sounds using the same primary letter symbol, or to clarify emphasis or tone.

Each script, and each language within a script, can have its own set of punctuation marks and usage conventions.

East Asian punctuation

Chinese and Japanese use a different set of punctuation marks.

  • Some punctuation marks are similar to their equivalent Western ones, but larger, to suit the characters that surround the mark, for example, the Chinese commas (,) is larger than its Western counterpart.
  • Chinese and Japanese period is a small circle (。).
  • When the text is written vertically, the quotation marks 『』 and 「」 are used; but when the text is written horizontally both the above quotation marks and the English quotation marks, “” and ‘’, can be used.
  • In Chinese in addition, there are book title marks, 《book title》, (what in English rendered as italicization or underlining); and chapter marks, 〈chapter title〉, (what in English would be quotation marks).
  • Caesura sign (頓號 or 顿号 in pinyin: dun4 hao4), nicknamed sesame dot, is the Chinese equivalent of serial comma. It is shaped like a teardrop with the narrow sharp end pointing top-left and round end pointing bottom-right: 、 (it may be depicted on your computer in another font). In Japanese, the Chinese caesura sign is used as comma (serial or not).
  • Partition sign (間隔號 jian1 ge2 hao4) is a dot at the centre of a character space: ‧. It is used to separate the given name and the family name of Westerners, or unsinicized or desinicized minority Chinese ethnic peoples, for example, 威廉莎士比亞 (wei1 lian2‧sha1 shi4 bi3 ya4) is the transliteration of "William Shakespeare", and the partition sign is inserted in between the characters of "William" and those of "Shakespeare". (Japanese and Koreans, however, because has the same ordering of names as Chinese (that is, family name first), also do not require partition mark in their names.) The partition sign is also used to separate book title and chapter title when they are mentioned consecutively (with book title first, then chapter).
  • Proper noun mark, which exist as underline beneath the noun, is occasionally used in Chinese (in teaching materials and some movie subtitles). When the text runs vertically, the proper name mark is written as a line to the left of the characters.

Korean, the third member language of CJK, uses Western punctuations currently.

Like Classical Chinese, traditional Mongolian language employed no punctuation at all. But now as it uses the Cyrillic alphabet, its punctuations are similar, if not identical, to Russian.

Other scripts

In ancient forms of Roman script, the interpunct served to separate words.

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