Terminating marks have a very straightforward function - to end sentences.
There are three types of terminating mark: full stops, exclamation marks and question marks. For now we will concentrate on the first two examples and consider the question mark in its own separate section here:
punctuation question marks
One exception is the use of multiple full-stops to indicate breaks in direct quotations or direct speech. The convention is to use three full stops to indicate such a break:
- Churchill said in his speech: We shall fight them on the beaches...we shall never surrender.
Note that the 'we' after the three full stops begins with a lower-case 'w' - this is a rare situation where this is permissible. In most circumstances, a termination mark must be followed by a capital letter.
Care needs to be taken over where full stops are positioned when used in with brackets and quotation marks. A full stop always falls outside a closing bracket, but inside a final quotation mark:
- The champion was knocked out (much to the crowd's surprise).
- Churchill said: "We shall fight them on the beaches".
Full stops are also used with abbreviations, such as e.g. (for example), i.e. (that is), etc. (and the rest) and no. (number). This is another situation where a full stop is followed by a lower-case letter, as the full stop is not indicating the end of a sentence. A full stop in these circumstances can also be followed by other punctuation marks:
- Most pets, e.g. dogs, cats, rabbits etc., do not live as long as their owners.
An exclamation mark works grammatically in the same way as a full stop, but is used to turn a statement into an exclamation of anger, joy, surprise, irony etc. For example:
- I can't believe you did that!
- If we hadn't have lost our tickets, we would never have met the play’s cast!
Using an exclamation mark is considered informal and would normally only be appropriate in an essay as part of a direct quotation. Exclamation marks follow the same punctuation rules as full stops, apart from with brackets and quotation marks. An exclamation mark always comes inside a final bracket and does not signal the end of the main sentence, so the closing bracket is followed by a full stop or a lower-case letter:
- The champion was beaten (much to the crowd's surprise!).
- When I had finished breakfast (I was so hungry!), I went to the shop and bought a bag of crisps.
Likewise, an exclamation mark within a direct quotation does not necessarily signal the end of the main sentence:
- He shouted I'm sorry! so the policeman let him go.
But if it does, no full-stop is needed after the closing quotation mark, as it is with brackets:
- He shouted I'm sorry!
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