Definition of punctuate in English:



  • 1Insert punctuation marks in (text)

    ‘they should be shown how to set out and punctuate direct speech’
    [no object] ‘style manuals tell you how to punctuate’
    • ‘Has Fred Durst really changed the name of his band simply by punctuating it badly?’
    • ‘I bet he had no idea when he sent in his badly spelled and badly punctuated letter that he would be ordered to cut off his hands and bleed over the keyboard.’
    • ‘‘They just want to see me happy,’ they can write about their parents, extended family and community acquaintances, punctuating their e-mail with a smiley-face.’
    • ‘She cleaned his clothes when they were dirty; she worshipped him when he didn't believe he was anything; she edited his writing when he forgot to punctuate.’
    • ‘Journalists at the press conference questioned the feasibility of this project, and The Beijing News punctuates the headline of its article with a question mark.’
    • ‘I have to pick through and revise the text, space it, and punctuate it, to make it readable and suitable for use.’
    • ‘For example, Proust, especially from Sodom and Gomorrah on, does some awfully odd things in marking and punctuating his dialogues, so that sometimes it isn't at all clear who's speaking.’
    • ‘It has not escaped my notice that the older authors like to punctuate with a semicolon where the illocutionary force changes; but that is hardly enough to indicate that we are not dealing with coordination.’
    • ‘She answered in a fluently written letter punctuated by dashes about the death of her husband.’
    add punctuation to, put punctuation marks in, dot
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  • 2Occur at intervals throughout (an area or period)

    ‘the country's history has been punctuated by coups’
    • ‘Commands and injunctions, as I suggested, punctuate the text from the outset.’
    • ‘Three dozen illustrations punctuate Stokes's reissued text of 1934.’
    • ‘The text is liberally punctuated with useful graphs tables and illustrations that help to summarize data and convey key concepts.’
    • ‘The many short chapters are often punctuated with pregnant little epigrams that underline the plot.’
    • ‘Now it was a tangle of vines and trees, punctuated occasionally by stone facings buried in a sea of leaves.’
    • ‘Detail shots featuring blow-ups of these reflections punctuate the transcript like posters in a man-hunt for the missing photographer.’
    • ‘Attempts at singing punctuate the record, and though Mos Def's technique is unconventional and amateurish, his efforts still manage to remain somewhat charming.’
    • ‘George's first-person text is punctuated by the wit and wisdom of his friend and confidant Derek Taylor, whose astute observations put the musings of the ex-Beatle into context.’
    • ‘Similar scenes punctuate a text marked by an assiduous application to the school of Ernest Hemingway, no bad model for any writer, though a notoriously difficult one to imitate.’
    • ‘Rice-Oxley will not only be an authorial presence on stage though, as the accompanying music is a recording of her singing Latin phrases to punctuate the English text.’
    • ‘At Nili's bedside, she reads her latest novel, extracts of which punctuate the text.’
    • ‘They fumble with sheets of paper and index cards, and mumble and punctuate every five words with ‘um’.’
    • ‘He strips sound down to its bare essentials: few notes punctuated by frequent silences.’
    • ‘Finally, the book is also punctuated with a series of illuminating photographs, charts, and tables.’
    • ‘And the politically correct asides that punctuate the text - theology is outdated, Roman battle descriptions are offensive - are irksome.’
    • ‘The familiar ring of ricocheting bullets punctuates the game's menus.’
    • ‘It is a clash of civilizations, not economic systems, and it is likely to be long, nasty, and punctuated with harsh reversals.’
    • ‘Sunken courtyards, which will be colonised, punctuate the building and create pleasantly lit corridors, giving natural light to most practice and teaching rooms.’
    • ‘War is sometimes described as long periods of boredom punctuated by short moments of excitement.’
    • ‘As long as the unipolar moment lasts, then, unconventional attacks like that on the Cole or on the Khobar Towers or the ambush of the Rangers in Mogadishu will continue to punctuate the headlines.’
    1. 2.1Interrupt or intersperse something with.
      ‘she punctuates her conversation with snatches of song’
      • ‘Martyn Hunter, playing Ben, provided most of the rare comic moments - gleefully crashing on to the stage riding a stolen bicycle, and forever punctuating his speech with a sudden, wicked laugh.’
      • ‘The thing that distinguishes this new play is the twist ending, which does punctuate the show with a note of originality.’
      • ‘Actually, he's sweet and funny, punctuating his conversation with eerily accurate impressions of Woody Allen, Colin Farrell and Malcolm McDowell - with whom he shares a slightly dangerous, edge-of-madness charm.’
      • ‘Gorgeously filmed and acted, Frida reveals the autobiography in Kahlo's art by occasionally punctuating the action with tableaux based on her paintings.’
      • ‘The film has been completely sold out and audiences could be heard weeping during its heavier moments, as well as punctuating each screening with standing ovations.’
      • ‘I can still hear his rhythmic South American accent in my mind - soft ‘r's, long vowels - and see him punctuating his words with his hands.’
      • ‘Scalia was characteristically intense, frequently shifting to the edge of his seat and punctuating his thoughts with brisk gesticulations.’
      • ‘Too many people, he continued, punctuating his phrases with his beer, plop themselves down at the end of the day and only get up to haul their large bottoms off to bed.’
      • ‘From behind me I could hear the occasional sticky hiss of the spray-starch can, the steamy exhale of the iron, and my mother's voice, punctuating the plot with her snide remarks.’
      • ‘As the pipe is pushed along the floor the objects turn over and move together and apart, while the metal bar and aluminum objects punctuate the movement with a rich sound.’
      • ‘They punctuated their demands with demonstrations and protests.’
      • ‘Sarah hated how her life was punctuated with ‘buts‘.’
      • ‘‘Cyrano must build sympathy with the public in the very first scene, when he must fight and sing like a hero,’ he said, punctuating his words with a flourish of an imaginary épée.’
      • ‘Nowadays, he still punctuates every practice punch with a sharp verbal exclamation: Uh!’
      • ‘With her long legs curled under her on a sofa in the cavernous main room of her atelier, she is relaxed enough to punctuate the conversation with sudden gusts of wild laughter.’
      • ‘I punctuate each word with slaps of my left palm against the chockstone, as tears well in my eyes.’
      • ‘The Carol Fleming dance group punctuated the musical sets with various dance routines.’
      • ‘The trick in overcoming this is to punctuate the display with patches of darker, richer colour such as dark pink, magenta or deep red.’
      • ‘Basil Brush always punctuated his jokes with a ‘Boom Boom!’’
      • ‘The same what the hell attitude returns on ‘Out-Side,’ a song where lyrics about dogs and trains are punctuated with cheap sound effects.’’
      break up, interrupt, intersperse, pepper, sprinkle, scatter, strew, dot
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Mid 17th century (in the sense ‘point out’): from medieval Latin punctuat- brought to a point, from the verb punctuare, from punctum a point.