5.1 End Punctuation

Preview

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 tells the reader how a sentence should be said.  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” your words correctly.

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 course.)

Chapter 5 provides basic information about punctuation.  We’ll begin at the end.

End Punctuation

Only three types of punctuation are 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)

Periods are also used one other way:  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 a shortening of a word, like “ft.” for “feet.”  An acronym is a new word created from the initials of a longer phrase, like “AIDS” for “Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.”  Texting shorthand, such as “OMG” and “LOL,” are acronyms, not abbreviations.  Acronyms do not need periods.  Abbreviations do.

The Question Mark?

The second most common end punctuation is a question mark.  It is used after direct questions, but not after indirect questions.  A direct question is asking for an answer.  An indirect question is not.  For example:

Has online enrollment begun?  (direct question)

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

The Exclamation Point!

An exclamation point is used after an expression that conveys strong emotions or loud sounds.  For example:

I need a break from this job!

Ouch! That hurts!

Exclamations are casual and rarely used in college or business writing.

Exercise 1

Type the sentences below, adding end punctuation. (Existing punctuation and capitalization are 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 more formal situations, like school or the workplace, where it matters.

Takeaways

  • 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.

License

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1, 2, 3 Write! by Gay Monteverde is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.