Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Correct Use of Period, Question Mark, and Exclamation Point

 End-line punctuation marks

The period, the question mark, and exclamation point are "end-line" punctuation marks. In the study of punctuation, some of the rules in this blog are not absolute. The main rules are well defined and fixed, but there is considerable variety of usage in details among writers. However, consistency in punctuation is certainly advisable.


1. Use a period after a declarative or imperative sentence.

Declarative: I am sending you all the documents as you requested.
Imperative: Send the documents to our branch office.

A declarative or imperative sentence that is also exclamatory may be followed by an exclamation point instead of a period to give emphasis.

Send the documents to our branch office immediately!

2. Use a period after most abbreviations and initials, particularly initials of proper names.

J. R. Cruz
(Doctor of Laws)
Mr., Mrs., Ms., Mmes., Messrs. 
(Please reply);
(January); Feb (February);
(that is); etc. (and so forth);
(for example); viz. (namely); pp. (pages)

Commas are usually placed before and after that is, for example, namely, or their abbreviations i.e., e.g., and viz.

Our company has established a sizable market, i.e., Japan, China, and Singapore.

It is preferable to write out the names of the months of the year, although certain informal situations allow for abbreviation. However, never abbreviate the following months: May, June, and July.

There is a growing tendency to omit the period after many initials which consist of all capital letters written solidly. In many instances, either form is correct.

USA or U.S.A. (United States of America)
CPA or C.P.A. (Certified Public Accountant)

Abbreviations consisting of small letters are usually typed solidly with a period after each letter.

We have cancelled all c.o.d. orders.

Please send the documents a.s.a.p.

3. Use a period before a decimal, to separate dollars and cents, and to precede cents written alone.

$ 1.99     $ .50     $ .05

Do not use a period and ciphers when an amount in even dollars is expressed in figures.

This computer costs $500 complete with peripherals. (Not $500. or $500.00)

4. Use the period repeated three times to indicate the omission of words from a quoted passage.

The statement read: " We cannot . . . until after the matter has been resolved."

5. Use the period repeated four times at the end of a sentence taken from a quoted passage to indicate omission of words.

The clause in the contract of damage or loss specifically reads as follows: "In the event that the damage or loss takes place in transit, the consignee will notify the insurer immediately . . . . "

Period faults

1. Do not use two periods when a declarative sentence ends with an abbreviation.

We are open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

We are located at Cubao, Q.C.

If the sentence is interrogative or exclamatory, a question mark or exclamation point follows the abbreviation period.

Will you be sending our orders c.o.d.?

Inside the sentence the abbreviation period is followed by such punctuation as would logically be used regardless of the period.

The price of pork is $5 a kg., whereas the allowed price is $4.50 a kilo.

2. Do not use a period after the Miss.

Miss Reyes is our store manager.

3. Do not use a period between a main clause and a subordinate clause.

Wrong: We shall ship the package on March 8. Unless a strike occurs.

Here the subordinate clause, unless a strike occurs functions adverbially modifying the verb phrase shall ship. Hence the subordinate clause cannot stand alone.

4. Do not use a period after headings, (or titles), and signatures.

Manila Computer Academy

Very truly yours,

Luis B. Martires


1. Use the question mark (interrogation mark) after a direct question and after a series of questions.

When will you be able to report for work?

Did he acknowledge our letters? Our repeated reminders? Our phone calls?

A courteous request by letter writers expressed in the form of a question takes a period, not a question mark.

May we have your response within the next ten days.

2. Use the question mark after statements of questionable truth.

The payment was for $1,258.67 (?).

In June (?) of 2010, we called on the Manila plant.

Do not use question mark to suggest humor or irony.

His friendly (?) gesture caught my attention.

3. Use the question mark at the end of an interrogative sentence which concludes with an abbreviation followed by a period.

Will we send this package to your residence at Fairview, Q.C.?

4. When used with quoted material, the question mark is placed inside the quotation marks if it belongs to the quotation; otherwise it is placed outside the quotation marks.

I said, "Has he the payment?" (Here the question mark refers only to the quoted material.)

Did the store manager say to the customer, "Please give the names of two references with whom you already have a charge account"? (Here the question mark refers to the entire sentence.)


1. The exclamation mark is used after an ejaculation or expression of strong emotion.

Wait! Don't release that shipment just yet!

2. The exclamation mark is often used after a newspaper headline.


3. When used with quoted material, the exclamation mark (like the question mark) is placed inside the quotation marks if it belongs to the quotation; otherwise it is placed outside the quotation marks.

Then she remarked. "You may have until the 17th to pay this bill - not a day longer!"

In the above sentence, the exclamation mark refers only to the quoted material.

Don't put us off with that lame excuse, "I forgot"! (Here the exclamation mark refers to the entire sentence.)

In my next blog, we will study the correct use of Comma.


  1. Very much better, Do! Also, very informative.. Thanks. -- Tito Al

  2. Thank you Tito Al for your comments and suggestion. I highly appreciate it.


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