End Punctuation

Rules for periods, question marks, exclamation points


End punctuation appears at the end of a complete sentence (independent clause) or follows an interjection. The appropriate placement of a period, question mark, or exclamation point separates one statement from another and signals a pause in the word flow. Correct use of end punctuation contributes to the order and readability of the text.

The punctuation at the end of a sentence is often determined by the purpose of the sentence. 

What is a period?

A period [.] is used at the end of a declarative sentence, that is, a sentence that contains a complete statement.

  • The instructor sent an email to her students asking them to participate in a mid-semester survey.
  • This email contains instructions on how to proceed. 
  • Dinner was a delightful affair.

A period may also be used at the end of an imperative sentence, a command telling the reader what to do. 

  • Go left at the next traffic light. 
  • Take a break from staring at the computer screen. 
  • Turn in the paperwork at the front office. 

What is a question mark?

A question mark [?] is used at the end of an interrogative sentence–a sentence that asks a question. 

  • What time does the meeting begin?
  • Where should I park the car?
  • Where is the nearest recycling bin for paper? 

A question mark is not used in a sentence that reports a question. 

  • He asked if I would like to come to dinner tonight. 
  • She wondered what the children enjoyed the most during their trip to the museum. 
  • I don’t know what they ate for dinner last night. 

What is an exclamation point?

An exclamation point [!] is used in any sentence that conveys strong emotion or excitement. 

  • I can’t wait to go on my vacation!
  • I love that movie!
  • I just got a raise!

An exclamation point may also be used for an imperative, or command, to show emphasis.

  • Watch out for that car!
  • Look out for that ice!
  • Put that down!

An exclamation point may also be used after an interjection that expresses a strong emotion.

  • Oh no! I left my paper on my desk in my dorm room. 
  • Wow! Did you see that field goal?
  • Yikes! Watch out for that spider!