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End Marks Study Guide

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Updated on Sep 22, 2011

End Marks

No iron can pierce the heart with such force as a period put just at the right place.

ISAAC BABEL (1894–1940)

RUSSIAN JOURNALIST

Knowing how and where to end your sentences is the key to helping your reader understand your writing. In this lesson, you will learn the proper placement and meanings of these basic punctuation marks.

Punctuation is essential in writing. The various internal and external punctuation marks we use are like road signs for readers. Our endmarks—periods, question marks, and exclamation points—indicate that the thought or sentence is complete and that the reader should pause, much in the way a stop sign signals a driver.

Periods

The period is the most common form of end punctuation. It indicates the end of a declarative sentence—a statement, a request, or a command.

    I am cold.
    Please close the window.

We also find periods in common abbreviations, like those for months, days, and measurements.

    inches = in. square feet = sq. ft. Monday = Mon. September = Sept.
    We also find periods in a person's initials
    Franklin D. Roosevelt E. B. White J. F. Kennedy

and in name titles.

    Mister = Mr. Doctor = Dr. President = Pres.

Tip

If an abbreviation ending in a period is the last word in a sentence, the abbreviation's period will also act as the endmark (in other words, the sentence will not end with two periods).

Incorrect: The next bus leaves at 8:30 A.M..
Correct: The next bus leaves at 8:30 A.M.

The exception to this is if the sentence ends with an exclamation point or a question mark:

    Does the next bus leave at 8:30 A.M.?
    The next bus leaves at 8:30 A.M.!

Question Marks

We find question marks at the end of interrogative sentences, also known as questions.

    Can Trish play tennis? Are you hungry? What time is it, please?

Be careful not to confuse an indirect question with a direct question. Since indirect questions are really just statements (declarative sentences), they take a period, not a question mark.

    Direct: Why did Lionel wear a green sock on one foot and a purple one on the other?
    Indirect: Dale wondered why Lionel wore a green sock on one foot and a purple one on the other.

Exclamation Points

When you want to imply strong feeling or emotion in a written sentence, you should place an exclamation point at the end. This would also include authoritative commands and interjections.

    Hey! Watch what you're doing!
    Thanks! I love it!

Tip

Many people use two or more exclamation points at the end of words or sentences they want to stress.

    Oh my gosh!!!! I don't know what I was thinking!!! I'm SO sorry!!!!!!

If one shows emphasis, two or three must really show emphasis, right? In a note to a friend, that's okay. But in formal writing, it's best to use just one.

A practice exercise for this concept can be found at End Marks Practice Exercise.

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