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You use a period, by far the most common of the end punctuation marks, to terminate a sentence that makes a statement. You may also use periods with imperative sentences that have no sense of urgency or excitement attached:
- Without a doubt, Emily was much happier after her divorce.
- Turn right at the stop sign.
- Bring me a cup of coffee and a cheese sandwich.
When you want to express a sense of urgency or very strong emotion, end your imperative sentences and statements with an exclamation mark:
- Look out below!
- Leave this house at once!
- I hate him!
Exclamation marks are rare in formal writing, so use them sparingly, if at all.
- Who’s on first?
- Where is my black tuque?
Be careful not to use a question mark at the end of an indirect question. Indirect questions are simply statements, and therefore end with a period:
- I wonder who was chosen as Harvest King in the county fair.
- Bridget asked if she could play pinball.
- The manager asked who was working overtime that evening.
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© Department of English, Faculty of Arts, University of Ottawa
A tool made available online by the Translation Bureau, Public Services and Procurement Canada