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!