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T he end of a sentence is signalled by a period, an exclamation mark, or a question mark. One almost never sees a question mark or an exclamation point in the middle of a sentence. A period, on the other hand, has many uses in addition to ending a sentence: for example, a period is used in titles, abbreviations, and placenames; and so, in these situations, a period is seen in the middle of a sentence. In this module, students will learn the rules for correct use of end punctuation, and to use end punctuation correctly and effectively in writing.
! ! ! . . .? ? ?
A period, also called a "full stop," is used to signal the end of most kinds of sentences . . .
the period at the end of a sentence:
A declarative sentence: a period is used to end a sentence that states a fact, such as "She laughed at my joke," or an opinion, such as "I believe it will rain today."
An imperative sentence: a period is also used to conclude a sentence that issues an order, gives advice, or makes a request—though with requests, one may choose instead to use a question mark.
Note: a good way to determine whether a request should end with a period or a question mark is to say the sentence out loud. If your voice goes up at the end of the sentence, use a question mark. Little rise in your voice indicates a level of formality and polite hesitation; a period expresses this polite tone.
An indirect question: a period is used in a sentence that includes a question, but is itself not a question.
other uses of the period
Periods and Money
A period is used between dollars and cents. No period is used when money is rounded to dollars:
$45.89 $45 $1,150 $1,150.00 $.67 $1
Periods and Abbreviations
Periods are not used in the abbreviations of familiar institutions, organizations, radio stations, long terms, and states do not take periods:
CIA FBI BBB AAA KFOG AIDS BART EBMUD CA
Nor are periods used in abbreviations that have become widely accepted as replacment words for the full version:
exam memo dorm web cell
Periods are used in abbreviations used for titles and unfamliar institutions and organizations:
Dr. Mr. Ms. M.D. Ph.D. Col. M.A.D.D.
Periods are also used after numbers or letters in an outline, unless the number or letter is enclosed in parentheses:
I. A. 1. 1.1.2. (a) (iii)
An ellipses, or a series of three periods (with a space between the last word or the period at the end of a sentence), is used to show an ommission of words in quote. If a single word is ommitted, use brackets ([ ]) to indicate the ommission.
Ellipses may also be used to indicate a pause or an unfinished thought:
The Question Mark
Use a question mark at the end of a direct question.
A question mark goes inside the closing quote if the quote is a question; if the sentence itself is a question, place the punctuation outside the closing quote. Do not double up punctuation when using a question mark by adding in the usual comma or a period. Skip the additional punctuation:
Use a question mark in parentheses to express doubt or uncertainty. But be careful not to overuse this technique, or use it as a substitute for explanation when an explanation would be useful.
As discussed above, do not use question marks after indirect questions or polite requests.
In a series of questions, it is acceptable to abbreviate questions after the initial question if the structure is clear.
Are you really coming? For two weeks? Really?
The Exclamation Point
The exclamation point is believed to have its origins in the Latin exclamation io, a term used to express joy. In the English language, exclamation points allow writers to quickly let a reader know that a statement is emphatic. There is a world of difference between "No." and "No!" for example. Be careful, however, to use an exclamation mark for strong emotions; overuse of exclamation marks make it seem as if a writer is relying on symbols rather than language to convey meaning.
Note: In a quotation, an exclamation point goes inside a closing quote if the quote is an exclamation; if the sentence itself is an exclamation, place the punctuation outside the closing quote. Do not double up punctuation when using a an exclamation point by adding in the usual comma or a period. Skip the additional punctuation:
His doctor exclaimed, "Wow! It's lucky we caught this in time."
Fixing Common End Punctuation Mistakes
If you discover the comment "EP" (for "faulty end punctuation") in the margin of a paper you have received back from your instructor, asking yourself the following questions may help you quickly figure out where you went wrong.
1. The period
2. The question mark
3. The exclamation mark
4. Fixing common EP mistakes