Punctuation is a device used to assist the reader. Punctuation is defined as the practice or system of using certain conventional marks or characters in writing or printing in order to separate elements and make the meaning clear, as in ending a sentence.
Today’s subject: “end marks:”
1. the period “.”
2. the question mark “?”
3. the exclamation point “!”
1. A statement is followed by (ended with) a period. Periods follow declarative sentences, sentences that make statements. Further, a declarative sentence containing an indirect question is followed by a period, not a question mark. “A reader asked why that is.”
The period is often used for terminal purposes when a sentence is not involved, as after numbers in a list:
1. there is
2. a period
3. after each
4. bullet number
In addition, the period is used to terminate many abbreviations: e.g., i.e., Mr., Dr., Ms., Rev., etc.. (Did you notice the “double period” there? the first period is to terminate the abbreviation “etc.,” and the second period is to complete the sentence.)
Our favorite … possibly overused … is the three periods … used to indicate the omission of one or more words or sentences in a quotation: “I pledge allegiance … to the republic …” Notice this additional period which terminates a sentence in a longer quote: “Shakesperare was born in 1564. … He married Anne Hathaway in 1582.”
2. Why is a question is followed by (ended with) a question mark? Again, to make meaning clear to the reader. Let’s look at examples:
- A direct question with the word order as an interrogative sentence, “Why did you visit our site today?”
- A direct question with the word order as a declarative sentence, “A fish can drown?” (This one could also be a statement, “A fish can drown.” (ended with a period).)
Remember, though, that a declarative sentence which contains an indirect question is ended with a period. “Someone asked us what keeps readers coming back.”
Here’s a twist … Readers sometimes ask us, “When are you going to post a new poll?” In other words, “we are often asked when we will post a new poll.”
3. We want to make a strong expression of feeling about this end mark! We caution against using the exclamation point to indicate only mild emotion. Most writing guides suggest that the overuse of exclamation points will dull the effectiveness of the mark. This is not nonsense! We totally agree!! Pay attention!!!
Warriner, John E., Mary E. Whitten, and Francis Griffith. English Grammar and Composition. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1965.
Hopper, Vincent F., Cederic Gale, Ronald C. Foote, and Benjamin W. Griffith. A Pocket Guide to Correct Grammar. New York: Barron’s Educational Service, Inc., 1984.