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How to Use Chinese Punctuation

Chinese text didn’t start using punctuation marks until the 1900s, after it was influenced by Western writing. As a result you’ll probably recognize many of the punctuation marks used in Chinese writing, though they’re not always used in the exact same way.

Here are all the Chinese punctuation marks you might come across, along with real-life examples from books, street signs and magazines.


Table of Chinese Punctuation Marks

Before we get into examples, here are all the Chinese punctuation marks you need to know, along with their Chinese names:

PunctuationChinese namePinyinWhat it isWhat it does
句号 jùhàoPeriodUsed to mark the end of a sentence.
省略号 shěnglüèhàoEllipsisUsed to indicate a thought trailing off.
问号 wènhàoQuestion MarkUsed to indicate a question.
感叹号 gǎntànhàoExclamation MarkUsed to indicate emphasis or exclamatory statements.
逗号 dòuhàoCommaUsed to separate clauses, phrases, or items in a list.
顿号 dùnhàoEnumeration CommaUsed in lists to separate items.
分号 fēnhàoSemicolonUsed to separate closely related clauses or phrases.
冒号 màohàoColonUsed before a list, explanation, or quotation.
破折号 pòzhéhàoDashUsed to indicate a break in thought or to emphasize a point.
「 」 or 『 』 引号 yǐn​hàoQuotation MarksUsed to indicate speech, quotes, or titles.
() 括号 kuòhàoParenthesesUsed to enclose additional information or explanations.
〈〉or《》书名号 书名号 shūmínghàoTitle marksUsed as quotation marks specifically for titles.
【 】 or 〖〗 被叫的 bējiǎdēBracketsUsed as quotation marks in simplified Chinese, usuallyfor song titles.
__ or ︱︱ 着重号 zhuózhònghàoEmphasis MarksUsed to indicate emphasis or importance.
· 間隔號 jiàngéhàoMiddle DotUsed to separate names and titles that aren't Chinese in origin.

How to Use Chinese Punctuation Marks (with Examples)

Chinese can be written in several different orientations, but the most common method is to write from top to bottom in columns that are read from right to left. This traditional vertical writing style is known as 纵向 (zòngxiàng) or 直书 (zhíshū) in Chinese, which means “vertical writing” or “column writing.”

When written horizontally, Chinese is typically written from left to right, just like English. This style is called 横排 (héngpái) or 横书 (héngshū) in Chinese, meaning “horizontal writing.”

Punctuation marks might show up a little differently depending on the style of writing they appear in. They might also be used slightly differently from what you’re used to in English. 

Here are some things you should know about certain Chinese punctuation marks. Wherever possible, I’ve added real-life examples that I found to show you how you might find these punctuation marks “in the wild.” 

You can also see how punctuation is used in the subtitles in FluentU videos.

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Using Commas in Chinese

In English, commas are primarily used to separate items in a list, to split up clauses in a sentence and to indicate pauses. In Chinese, commas are also used for the same purposes, but more sparingly.

Here’s a simple example from a sign:

Chinese Punctuatio Marks 2

You can also see plenty of other examples in the images below. Keep an eye out for them!

The enumeration comma (、) is a specific punctuation mark used in Chinese. It’s used exclusively to separate items in a list. You can see both types of commas in use in this article (pictured in full in the next section):

20240401 100615

Using Periods in Chinese

In Chinese, periods also indicate the end of a sentence. However, in formal Chinese writing, periods are often used more frequently than in English to indicate pauses between phrases or ideas within a sentence.

Periods are pretty common in Chinese writing and are easy to spot since they’re basically small circles. For instance, there are several periods scattered throughout this magazine article:

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Using Exclamation Marks in Chinese

There’s not much difference between the use of exclamation marks in English and Chinese. However, I have noticed that Chinese uses them less frequently, even when similar signs in English would use an excess of them. Here’s an example from a sign:

Chinese Punctuatio Marks 1

Using Quotation Marks in Chinese

Chinese technically uses corner brackets (「」) as quotation marks, but you’ll also frequently encounter Western quotation marks ( “” ). For instance, here’s an example from a children’s book:

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And here’s an example from an adult book:

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The traditional Chinese quotation brackets are still used as well, though they’re more common with vertical text, like in this book:

20240401 100819 (1)

Using Ellipses in Chinese

The ellipsis in Chinese is used to indicate an omission or trailing off of thought, similar to its usage in English. It consists of six dots (。。。。。。) rather than three.

They also often appear in the center of the line, instead of at the bottom of the line (⋯⋯). Here it is in a children’s book:

20240401 101158 (1)

When the text is in vertical orientation rather than horizontal, these dots are also flipped on their axis, like in this example from a book:

20240401 100440

Using Dashes in Chinese

Dashes in Chinese generally take up the space of two English em-dashes, making them extra long. This is to prevent confusion with the Chinese character 一 (yī). You can see just how different they look in the example below:

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When text is vertical, it’s easier to distinguish between the two marks: The dash gets turned on its side as well, while the character 一 does not, as you can see in this blurb:

20240403 131737

This isn’t the case for all punctuation marks. For instance, colons remain upright too. Be careful not to confuse them for ellipses!

20240403 133124

Middle Dot in Chinese

When a non-Chinese name is written with Chinese characters, it can be hard to distinguish different parts of the name. To make it easier to read foreign names, Chinese places a dot between the first and last name, like this:

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Or this:

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When Not to Use Punctuation Marks in Chinese

It’s just as common to see no punctuation marks at all, especially in signs, even when the English counterpart might include them. Here’s an example from a sign I encountered in Brooklyn’s Chinatown:

20240402 105720

This sushi restaurant had an entire poem outside its doors, which also used not a single punctuation mark:

20240402 113246 (1)


Chinese punctuation marks may be a new addition to the language, but they’re commonly used now. So if you’re studying Chinese, make it a point to learn these punctuation marks and what they represent!

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