4.1 End Punctuation

Preview

This section of Ch. 4 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 written language should be spoken so the listener understands the meaning.

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 mean.

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 4 provides basic information about punctuation.  Let’s begin at the end.

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)

(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 periods, 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!

 

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 where it matters.

Exercise 1

In your notebook, copy the sentences below, inserting end punctuation where appropriate. (Existing punctuation and capitalization are already correct.)

  1. Valivann brought pulled pork, salad rolls, and rice to the picnic
  2. Will John be on time
  3. Chris always says John has his own clock
  4. I still have to clean and move the table and chairs that have been sitting in the basement since last summer
  5. Rain On my birthday Such bad luck
  6. The good news is we can still eat cake, even in the rain

Moving Forward

The following sections of this chapter will cover the use of commas, apostrophes, quotation marks, and italics. What you won’t find is information on other punctuation, like semicolons, colons, hyphens, dashes, parentheses, ellipses, and slashes.

Why? Because 98% of the punctuation you will ever need to use in college or business writing will be the big five: end punctuation, commas, apostrophes, quotation marks, and italics. Focus on these, master them, and worry about the rest later.

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.
  • Focus on learning the five most common punctuation marks: end punctuation, commas, apostrophes, italics, and quotation marks.

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