Punctuation establishes the cadence of a sentence, telling readers where to pause (comma, semicolon, and colon), stop (period and question mark), or take a detour (dash, parentheses, and square brackets). Punctuation of a sentence usually denotes a pause in thought; different kinds of punctuation indicate different kinds and lengths of pauses.

Ensure you neither overuse nor underuse various kinds of punctuation marks. For example, many writers overuse dashes. If the punctuation within a sentence becomes challenging to read, try rewording the sentence or splitting the sentence into multiple shorter sentences.

The Publication Manual contains guidance on how to use periods, commas, semicolons, colons, dashes, quotation marks, parentheses, square brackets, and slashes. Only a subset of the guidance is presented on the website to answers users’ most common questions.

Punctuation is covered in Chapter 6 of the APA Publication Manual, Seventh Edition

Additional resources

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Dictionary of Psychology

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Date created: September 2019