Punctuation in Spanish resembles punctuation in English in some respects, but it is different in other respects. Here are the common punctuation symbols in Spanish.
|Symbol||English name||Spanish name|
|.||period, full stop||el punto|
|;||semi-colon||punto y coma|
|¿?||question marks||puntos de interrogación|
|¡!||exclamation points||puntos de exclamación|
|«»||angle quotes, chevrons||comillas francesas, comillas angulares|
|“”||quotes, double quote, inverted comma||comillas|
|‘’||apostrophe, single quote||comillas sencillas|
|-||hyphen (short)||el guión|
|-||minus sign (medium length)||el signo de menos|
|—||dash (long)||la raya|
Periods/full stops and commas
With the exception of writing numbers, periods/full stops and commas are mostly used as they are in English.
Abbreviations usually are always written with a period/full stop as in North American English, and unlike UK English.
- UK: Dr Moreno, Sr González
- US & Spanish: Dr. Moreno, Sr. González
Commas are not written before the conjunction y in a series: leones, tigres y osos 'lions, tigers and bears'. Two clauses with different subjects are separated by a comma: Jorge es carpintero, y Juan es maestro, 'Jorge is a carpenter and Juan is a teacher'.
The point is used to separate thousands: 25.000 dólares = $25,000. The comma is used to separate decimals: 10,53 (diez coma cincuenta y tres) = 10.53 (ten point five three).
A few countries (Mexico, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and the Central American countries) use the system of the English-speaking world: 10.53 is pronounced diez punto cincuenta y tres.
Colons are used as in English, with one exception: salutations in letters often end with a colon where English prefers using a comma.
Semi-colons are generally used as in English. They also are used after a series of commas to indicate a longer pause or a more important separation of ideas, as well as before phrases that are themselves typically followed by commas, such as sin embargo, no obstante, or a pesar de esto.
Question marks and exclamation points
Spanish is one of a very small number of languages that use question marks and exclamation points in pairs to mark both the beginning and the end of the question or exclamation. If only a portion of a sentence is a question or exclamation, only that portion of the sentence is surrounded by opening and closing question marks or exclamation points.
There are at least two common patterns for quoting text in print.
- Some writers or publications bracket quoted text in chevrons or angle quotes «», and use straight quotes/inverted commas “” for quotations within quotations.
- Some writers or publications bracket quoted text in straight quotes/inverted commas “”, and use single quotes ‘’ for quotations within quotations.
Spanish uses three types of dash:
- el guión, hyphen, short -
- el signo de menos, minus sign, medium length -
- la raya, dash, double length —
When representing continuous dialog, Spanish uses a raya to mark the beginning of dialog, a change of speaker or a resumption of dialog after an interruption. Dialog is closed by a raya only when unspoken words follow the dialog.
Hyphens are used much less frequently in Spanish than in English, as most compounds are written as single words. They sometimes appear between compound adjectives when each part represents separate things or people; only the second of the two adjectives agrees in number and gender. Sometimes a hyphen is used to join two nouns. A hyphen is also used when dividing a word at the end of a line much as in English.