Apostrophes, commas and semicolons fall under the "punctuation" category. Is there a subcategory, however, that distinguishes between apostrophes and commas/semicolons/colons...?

Thank you!

Edit: hyphens would go with apostrophes and question marks, dashes, etc. with commas. Basically, I'm trying to distinguish between the punctuation that puts a term together (e.g. "I'm", "k-means") and the rest, which don't characterize single terms (like commas, question marks, etc.).

  • What else would you imagine falls in the "apostrophe category" rather than the "comma/colon/semicolon category"? Do hyphens go with apostrophes or with commas? What about dashes? Periods? Question marks? We need to know what distinction you're trying to make in order to determine whether your question is even answerable.
    – Marthaª
    Commented Apr 30, 2015 at 1:02
  • Just edited the question... sorry for my terminology!
    – aralar
    Commented Apr 30, 2015 at 1:07
  • 1
    Huh. Interesting question. Dunno if it has much of an answer, other than "punctuation used for joining words" vs. "all other punctuation", but interesting distinction.
    – Marthaª
    Commented Apr 30, 2015 at 1:12
  • This question is problematic because you are assuming that the standard ways of categorising punctuation (if there are any) line up with how you think they should be categorised. It would be better if you simply asked what categories they fall into. Commented Apr 30, 2015 at 1:20
  • 2
    The main category is that apostrophes are not audible -- i.e, they do not represent anything in the actual spoken language -- whereas commas and semicolons are. Semicolons are full stops; same intonation as periods. And commas are mid-high-low-mid intonation contours (not "pauses" -- there are no pauses at commas in speech, just like there aren't spaces between words in speech). Apostrophes are essentially patches to the orthographic system to deal with language change, and often to mark things that aren't marked in English, like the difference between they're and their. Commented Apr 30, 2015 at 2:12

2 Answers 2


Apostrophes, commas, semicolons and colons are all considered to be punctuation marks (along with several others). Commas, semicolons and colons could be categorised (grouped) together as pauses. Apostrophes could be categorised as indicators of omission (or something like that). The other member of this category is the ellipsis (...).

  • The apostrophe isn't the only one, the ellipsis has a similar function, but for words instead of letters. Commented Apr 30, 2015 at 1:17
  • @curiousdannii good point - I've amended my answer.
    – dave
    Commented Apr 30, 2015 at 1:24

comma, colon etc indicate rhythm and phrasing. In apostrophe s the ' is used as a diacritical symbol. It indicates in what way the s changes the meaning.

  • Where is your evidence that people commonly categorise them this way? Commented Apr 30, 2015 at 1:21
  • Commonly they are not differentiated at all. But if you need to make a distinction, "is used as a diacritical" expresses the difference.
    – Hugh
    Commented Apr 30, 2015 at 1:28

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.