Frequencies for English Punctuation Marks

Vivian Cook 
Punctuation menu

Language of the Street

 


Frequencies of 
punctuation marks

Commas 
47%
Full stops 
45%
Dashes 
  2%
Parentheses 
  2%
Semicolons 
  2%
Question marks 
  1%
Colons 
  1%
Exclamation marks
  1%
Source Meyer (1987)'s analysis of the Brown Corpus


Frequencies for Google Ngrams Year 2000

NB commas are missing as Ngrams uses them as dividers

Frequencies for comma distribution

Elements in a series (words, phrases, clauses etc) 20.3%
Sentence-initial elements (words, phrases, clauses etc)  20.2%
Sentence-final elements (phrases, clauses)   5.0%
Non-restrictive phrases or clauses 17.3%
Appositives 26.1%
Interrupters   6.6%
Quotations   4.5%

Source (Bayraktar et al, 1998 based on Wall Street Journal)

Frequency per 1000 words in various text types (VC)

 

Pickwick Papers

Sons & Lovers

Mysterious Affair at Styles

Death world

Guardian online 23/11/11

NYTimes 24/11/11

CEFR

Misc Ling Papers

Aver-age

COCA

Total words

296,000

161,000

57,106

58,095

11,940

12,084

93,808

33,726

 

 

. full stop

19,364

65.4

14,515

90.1

4,650

81.6

4,783

82.5

522

43.5

760

63.3

4644

49.4

2,269

66.7

65.3

21,304,861

, comma

32,618

110.2

12,492

77.6

4,282

75.1

2,420

41.7

570

47.5

776

64.7

4810

51.2

2,258

66.4

61.6

23,849,941

; semi&colon

3,469

11.1

697

4.3

77

1.4

6

0.1

12

1

12

1

356

3.8

106

3.1

3.2

782,692

: colon

144

0.5

273

1.7

132

2.3

5

0.1

43

3.6

41

3.4

552

5.9

321

9.4

3.4

1,360,298

! exclamation

1,527

5.2

1,973

12.3

413

7.2

75

1.3

0

 

27

0.3

5

0.1

3.3

368,622

? question

1,897

6.4

1,335

8.3

838

14.7

314

5.4

13

1.1

6

0.5

809

8.6

1

0.0

5.6

1,620,720

apostrophe/ single quote

24,688

83.4

4,259

26.5

1,104

19.4

1,225

21.1

175

14.6

175

14.6

384

4.1

362

10.6

24.3

953,027

double quote

1,560

5.3

10,430

64.8

4,437

77.8

2105

36.3

271

22.6

262

21.9

239

2.5

44

1.3

26.7

na

- hyphen

8,297

28.0

3,109

11.9

1,457

25.6

1006

17.3

133

11.1

154

12.8

1081

11.5

420

12.4

15.3

392,700

Total per 1000

315.5

297.5

305.1

205.8

145

182.2

186.5

236.7

208.7

 

Score per 1000 words
(= score divided by total words in 1000s, .05 rounded up) (VC)

 

Average

. full stop

65.3

, comma

61.6

; semi&colon

3.2

: colon

3.4

! exclamation

3.3

? question

5.6

apostrophe/ single quote

24.3

double quote

26.7

- hyphen

15.3

Total
208.7

Google Ngram historical frequencies  for English 1500-2000 AD

Colon :

 

Double quotation " "

Full stop .

Question mark ?

Exclamation mark !

Semi-colon ;


Note: commas cannot be counted in Ngrams since commas are used as dividers

Punctuation Novel Punctuation Punctuation Index Letter frequency