5.1 End Punctuation


This section of Ch. 5 will cover the following topics:

  • the role of punctuation
  • end punctuation: periods, question marks, exclamation points

Punctuation is nothing more than a code that shows how a sentence should be spoken. For example, a question mark at the end of a sentence means your voice goes up at the end. A period means your voice goes down at the end. Say these sentences aloud:

What is your name?

My name is Laura.

Hear the difference? If you use punctuation correctly, readers will “hear” what you intended to say.

Incorrect punctuation sends incorrect information to the reader. Sometimes the result is confusing or even silly. For example:

With a comma: Let’s eat, Mother. (This is telling your mother it’s dinner time.)

Without a comma: Let’s eat Mother. (This is suggesting that Mother be the main entree.)

Chapter 5 provides basic information about punctuation.  Let’s begin at the end, because that’s easiest.

End Punctuation

There are only three kinds of punctuation used at the end of English sentences:

  • periods
  • question marks
  • exclamation points

The Period.

A period goes at the end of a complete sentence that makes a statement or a mild command. Most sentences end in a period. For example:

Heavy rain caused delays on I-5. (statement)

Take a different route to avoid traffic congestion. (mild command)

Another way to use a period is after an abbreviation. For example:

Jan. (for January) Mr. (for Mister)
ft. (for feet) abbr. (for abbreviation)
Ave. (for Avenue) Pres. (for President)
Tues. (for Tuesday) Ch. (for chapter)

Note: An abbreviation is not the same thing as an acronym. An abbreviation is a shortening of a word, like “ft.” for “feet.” An acronym is a new word created from the initials of a longer phrase, like “NATO” for the “North Atlantic Treaty Organization” or “AIDS” for “Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.” Abbreviations end in a period, but acronyms don’t.

The Question Mark?

The second most common end punctuation is a question mark. It is used after direct questions, but not after indirect questions. For example:

Has online enrollment begun? (direct question)

I wonder if online enrollment has begun. (indirect question)

The Exclamation Point!

Exclamation points are used after an expression that conveys strong emotions or loud sounds. They are casual and rarely used in college or business writing. For example:

I need a break from this job!

Ouch! That hurts!

Exercise 1

Type the sentences below, adding end punctuation. (Existing punctuation and capitalization are already correct.)

  1. Christine brought soup and homemade bread to her elderly neighbor
  2. Will Lily be on time
  3. Mom always says my sister has her own agenda
  4. I have to clean my room before my parents get back
  5. Rats I didn’t get into the class I wanted
  6. The good news is they are offering a discount for senior citizens

The key to end punctuation is to remember to use it! Because many people text or send messages these days, they often forget to use punctuation in other, more formal situations, like school or the workplace, where it matters.


  • The three types of end punctuation in English are periods, question marks, and exclamation points.
  • The content of the sentence determines which punctuation to put at the end.
  • Remembering to actually use end punctuation is the biggest challenge.


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