English Punctuation: Dashes, Parentheses, Quotation Marks, and Ellipses

Series index: English Punctuation Overview.



The dash is famous (or infamous) for its informal and flexible use; you can place one just about anywhere.

  • The Dash - overview of the dash's main uses, including the difference between the en dash and the em dash.
  • Armchair Punctuator - a longer overview covering several uses
  • The King's English - a lengthy discussion of the use and misuse of dashes (published in 1908).

Parentheses (Brackets)

A type of bracket, the parenthesis is sometimes called a bracket or round bracket. Parentheses surround parenthetical elements just as commas(link) and dashes sometimes do.

Brackets or Square Brackets

Square brackets have more specialized uses, like inserting information into quotes and surrounding parenthetical information inside parentheses.

Quotation Marks

Quotation marks (or speech marks) are used mainly to indicate dialogue. The quotation mark has only a couple simple rules, but many still manage to misuse it (see The Gallery of “Misused” Quotation Marks for proof).


The ellipsis (lovingly called “dot-dot-dot”) usually represents words omitted from a quote, but it can also indicate trailing off in speech.