Ending a Sentence: Periods, Exclamation Marks, and Question Marks
When we read, we know a sentence ends when we see specific marks. Typically, these marks are periods, exclamation points, or question marks. While these may seem simple, "end-sentence" punctuation is very important for letting a reader know that a sentence is concluding. When we use them incorrectly, we end up with incomplete or run-on sentences that can confuse our readers. Read this page to learn when, why, and how to use periods and exclamation marks.
Ending punctuation identifies the end of a sentence, and most commonly includes periods, question marks, and exclamation marks.
- Ending punctuation comprises symbols that indicate the end of a sentence, such as periods, question marks, and exclamation points.
- Periods are used at the end of declarative or imperative sentences.
- Question marks come at the end of sentences that make a request or ask a direct question. Declarative sentences sometimes contain direct questions.
- A sentence ending in an exclamation mark may be an exclamation, an imperative, or may indicate astonishment.
- exclamation mark - A punctuation mark usually used after an interjection or exclamation to indicate strong feelings or high volume (shouting).
- question mark - Punctuation at the end of a sentence that asks a direct question.
- period - The punctuation mark that indicates the end of a sentence.
Ending punctuation comprises symbols that indicate the end of a sentence. Most commonly, these are periods, question marks, and exclamation points. Ending punctuation can also be referred to as end marks, stops, or terminal punctuation.
There are three main types of ending punctuation: the period, the question mark, and the exclamation mark. A period (.) is the punctuation mark that indicates the end of a sentence. The question mark (?) replaces a period at the end of a sentence that asks a direct question. The exclamation mark (!) is a punctuation mark usually used after an interjection or exclamation to indicate strong feelings or high volume (shouting), and often marks the end of a sentence.
Periods are used at the end of declarative or imperative sentences. Recall that declarative sentences make statements and imperative sentences give commands. Periods can also be used at the end of an indirect question. Indirect questions are designed to ask for information without actually asking a question. Let's review some examples.
- My dog is a golden retriever. (declarative sentence)
- Go get your dog and bring him inside the house. (imperative sentence)
- Janet's mom and dad want to know what she is doing. (indirect question)
- "Get some paper towels", she ordered. (declarative sentence containing an imperative statement)
Periods are also used in abbreviations. For example, "doctor" is abbreviated "Dr." and "junior" is abbreviated "Jr." Remember that if an abbreviation that uses a period comes at the end of a sentence you do not add a period – the period with the abbreviation serves as the ending punctuation as well.
Question marks come at the end of sentences that make a request or ask a direct question. Declarative sentences sometimes contain direct questions.
- What is Janet doing? (direct question)
- Her mother asked, "What are you doing, Janet?" (declarative sentence with a direct question)
A sentence ending in an exclamation mark may be an exclamation, an imperative, or may indicate astonishment. Like question marks, exclamation marks can be included within declarative sentences. Let's review some examples.
- Wow! (exclamation)
- Boo! (exclamation)
- Stop! (imperative)
- They were the footprints of a gigantic duck! (astonishment)
- He yelled, "Stay off the grass!" (declarative sentence that includes an exclamation)
Exclamation marks are occasionally placed mid-sentence with a function similar to a comma for dramatic effect, although this usage is obsolete: "On the walk, oh! there was a frightful noise."
Informally, exclamation marks may be repeated for additional emphasis ("That's great!!!"), but this practice is generally considered unacceptable in formal prose. The exclamation mark is sometimes used in conjunction with the question mark. This can be in protest or astonishment ("Out of all places, the squatter-camp?!"); again, this is informal. Overly frequent use of the exclamation mark is generally considered poor style, for it distracts the reader and devalues the mark's significance.
Complete these six (6) questions to check your understanding of punctuation marks. The next question will appear after you select an answer.
Source: Lumen Learning, http://oer2go.org/mods/en-boundless/www.boundless.com/writing/textbooks/boundless-writing-textbook/overview-of-english-grammar-punctuation-and-mechanics-251/other-punctuation-283/ending-punctuation-145-9261/index.html
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.