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Punctuation 6: End Punctuation

 

A sentence should end with one of three punctuation marks: a period, a question mark, or an exclamation point. You should always leave two spaces after the punctuation mark that ends a sentence.

A. Use a period to mark the end of a statement, a mild command, or an indirect question.

Statement

    Iguanas are beautiful creatures.

    I shouldn't have eaten that peanut.

Mild Command

    Have your teeth examined by a dentist every six months.

    Please bring your papers to the front of the class.

Indirect Question
(An indirect question describes a question someone asked or thought of asking, but without using the exact words of the original question.)

    She wondered whether the iguana would bite.

    He asked why I would ever want an iguana as a pet.

B. Use periods after some abbreviations.

Here are some examples.

Mr. Dr. a.m. etc. Ph.D.
Ms. St. p.m. et al. R.N.
Jr. N.Y. vs. e.g. B.C.
Mr. J. R. Ewing

Periods are used for most abbreviations, but not all (in English, there are always exceptions to the rule). Most abbreviations of three or more words should not have periods. Here are some examples.

MVP mph NATO AIDS CIA
DNA HBO UFO USMC FBI

Use only one period after an abbreviation that ends a sentence. For example,

    He arrived at 3 a.m.

C. Use a question mark after a direct question.

Note how these differ from the indirect questions in section A above.

    She wondered, "Will the iguana bite?"

    "Why would you ever want an iguana as a pet?" he asked.

    Should convicted killers receive the death penalty?

D. Use the exclamation point after an emphatic or emotional statement, an emphatic interjection, or a forceful command.

The exclamation point should be used sparingly. One of my teachers said that you should imagine you only have ten exclamation points to use over the course of your entire lifetime! This may seem a bit extreme, but it makes you think hard before you use an exclamation point, which is what you should do. Using an exclamation point is like shouting. If someone shouts all the time, they quickly become irritating, and you begin to tune them out. Overusing exclamation points can similarly irritate your reader and make your reader dismiss what you have to say.

Here are some examples of appropriate uses of the exclamation point.

Emphatic or Emotional Statement

    I have to finish this paper!

    Your dirty clothes are all over the floor!

Emphatic Interjection
(An interjection is a word that expresses feeling or commands attention.)

    Oh!

    Hey! Your iguana just ate my homework.

Forceful Command

    Get in here!

    Attention!

    Watch out!

Exercises for Part 6
Here are some exercises regarding end punctuation. Insert the appropriate end punctuation at the end of each sentence. Eliminate run-on sentences where present.

  1. Dinner is served
  1. Combine one cup oil and one cup water stir in muffin mix pour into muffin pan
  1. Ouch this coffee is burning hot
  1. The professor asked me how many times I had flunked the course
  1. I replied, "I've never flunked a course in my life"
  1. The professor pulled out my transcript "Then what are all these failing grades on your record"
  1. Is the English language dying
  1. Leave me alone
  1. At 3 pm he's going to a rally at the White House protesting the NAFTA treaty.
Thanks for dropping by!...

Except where noted, Content © 1996 - 2002 Jeanne Cavelos
< jcavelos@sff.net >
Updated Nov 30, 2002
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