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Punctuation in Poetry

Explanation of Main Poetry Punctuation Types


The Period is the longest pause—a full stop. It marks the end of a sentence, and shows the sense complete; as, The sky is blue`. Pause the time of counting six, and let the voice fall.


The Interrogation is used at the end of a question; as, Is the sky blue´? If the question can be answered by yes or no, the voice rises; if not, it falls; as, Where is your map`;? Pause the time of counting six.


The Exclamation denotes wonder, surprise, pain, or joy; as, O´! what a sweet rose`! Pause the time of counting one, after a single word, and let the voice rise; but after a complete sentence, pause the time of counting six, and let the voice fall.


The Colon is a pause shorter than the Period; as, The sky is clear`: the sun shines. Pause the time of counting four, and let the voice fall.


The Semicolon is a pause shorter than the Colon; as, The rose is fair`; but it soon fades. Pause the time of counting two, and let the voice fall. Sometimes the voice should rise, as the sense may require.


The Comma is the shortest pause; as, Jane goes to school´, and learns to read. Pause the time of counting one, and keep the voice up.

The Dash denotes a sudden pause or change of subject; as, I saw him—but what a sight! When the dash is used after any other pause, the time of that pause is doubled.

Explanation of Other Poetry Punctuation Types


The Apostrophe has the form of the comma. It denotes the possessive case; as, John's book; also, that one or more letters have been left out of a word; as, lov'd for loved.

" "

The Quotation includes a passage that is taken from some other author or speaker; as, John said: "See my kite."

( )

The Parenthesis includes words not properly a part of the main sentence; as, I like these people (who would not?) very much. The words within the parenthesis should be read in a lower tone of voice.

[ ]

The Brackets inclose words that serve to explain the preceding word or sentence; as, James [the truthful boy] went home.


The Caret shows where words are to be put in that have been omitted by mistake; as, Live ^in peace.


The Diæresis is placed over the latter of two vowels, to show that they belong to two distinct syllables; as, aërial.


The Hyphen is used to connect compound words; as, Well-doing; or the parts of a word separated at the end of a line.

The Index points to something special or remarkable; as, ⇒ Important News!

*** .... or ——

The Ellipsis shows that certain words or letters have been purposely omitted; as, K**g, k..g, or k--g, for king.

The Paragraph denotes the beginning of a new subject. It is chiefly used in the Bible; as, ¶ The same day came to him, etc.


The Section is used to divide a book or chapter into parts; as, §45.

* † ‡

The Asterisk, the Obelisk, the Double Dagger, and sometimes other marks, [Footnote: For instance: the Section mark, §, and the Parallel, ||.] refer to notes in the margin.

Application of Poetry Punctuation Types

1 My Young Friends´, never tell a falsehood`; but always
2 speak the truth`; this is pleasing to your Maker.
3 Do you read His holy word—the Bible´? O! remem-
4 ber, that He has there said: "He that speaketh lies, shall
5 not escape: he shall perish."* Remember, too, that the
6 All-seeing God knows all that we say or do.
7 ¶ Tho' wisdom's voice is seldom heard in k--g's
8 palaces,—there have been wise kings, (e.g. Solomon,) who
9 were lov'd and obey'd by their subjects.†
10 Here, [i.e. in the U.S.,] we can not boast of our kings,
11 princes, lords, &c.; yet we have had a PRESIDENT, who,
12 in true greatness, surpass'ed them all; viz., the great
13 WASHINGTON.—— ⇒ Washington feared and hon-
14 ored God.
15 § Section, ‡ Double Dagger, and || Parallel, are also used
16 for reference to the margin.