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Creative Writers Study Punctuation Tips on the Period, Question Mark, Exclamation Mark

By Deborah Owen

Creative writers rarely study punctuation, but every sentence they write depends on it. Learn it well.

An imperative sentence is a command or request.

Give me a hug.

A declarative sentence states a fact.

She gave him a hug.

Some declarative sentences contain a question. If the sentence as a whole states the question as a fact, it should end with a period.

A question

Would you like to go to a party?

A declaration

I wonder if you would like to go to a party.

Instead of asking if you would like to go to a party, I have stated that I am wondering if you would like to go. You would use a period to end the sentence.

Abbreviated words end in a period.

Mr., Dr., Rev., etc., i.e., and Mrs. are examples of abbreviated words that have periods. If your declarative or imperative sentence that requires a period ends with an abbreviated word, do not add an additional period.

(Yes)

The movie starts at 8 P.M.

(No)

The movie starts at 8 P.M..

A sentence that is a direct question ends with a question mark. Simple, right? A question mark is also used to show that there is doubt or an unknown in the sentence. When the question mark is used in this way, it is usually placed in parentheses. An unknown date on a tombstone would be presented like this.

(1960 – ?)

There is a known birthday but the date of death is unknown.

Look at this sentence.

In her will, the eccentric woman left her pet cat (?) the entire estate.

The question mark indicates the writer is not sure if the pet is a cat.

If there are a series of incomplete questions within a sentence, a question mark is placed at the end of each.

Can you believe the man survived the gunshot? Or the fall from the six-story building? Or hitting the flagpole?

This is an example of a series of incomplete questions in a sentence. Did you notice the question mark after each question? These do not require parenthesis as they do not pose direct doubt.

The Exclamation Mark

Sometimes called an exclamation point, this handy little punctuation is used to indicate surprise or a strong emotion or feeling.

Get out of my room.

Get out of my room!

Look at the different levels of excitement in those two sentences. The first is a simple command. It states someone wants you to leave the room. The second relates a sense of urgency or possibly anger. An exclamation mark at the end of a sentence changes the emotion.

Exclamation marks are rarely used in formal writing unless it is in a quote or the citing of a title. In informal writing, you can use an exclamation point at the end of a sentence or after particularly exciting information.

If the exclamation mark is used to punctuate exciting information within a sentence, it is placed in parenthesis.

Mike won first place (!) in the spelling bee.

See below for more free writer’s tips.

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