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At first glance, punctuation might appear to be an aspect of written language only. But much of punctuation is essentially a guide to reading aloud: a punctuation mark can represent a pause, or a tone of voice.

Punctuation can also play a part in the meaning of a sentence. In the title of the book Eats, Shoots and Leaves, the presence of the comma completely changes the meaning of the phrase, and in reading it aloud, the comma marks a pause. (You may also note that the change in meaning depends on two homographs of "shoots".)

Punctuation marks such as the apostrophe and the full stop mark abbreviations and contractions.

Finally, punctuation is often a matter of style. Choice of punctuation, as much as choice of vocabulary, is a personal taste.

There is a leaflet in the SAS series which amalgamates all the advice on punctuation in one page: see Punctuation (SAS leaflet).