English in Use/End Marks

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The period, or full stop, is used to mark an entire and independent sentence, whether simple or compound.

Distinct sentences


When a sentence, whether long or short, is complete in respect to sense, and independent in respect to construction, it should be marked with the period: as,

  • "Every deviation from truth is criminal. Abhor a falsehood. Let your words be ingenuous. Sincerity possesses the most powerful charm."
  • "The force of a true individual is felt through every clause and part of a right book; the commas and dashes are alive with it."—R. W. Emerson.
  • "By frequent trying, Troy was won. All things, by trying, may be done."—Lloyd, p. 184.

Allied sentences


The period is often employed between two sentences which have a general connection, expressed by a personal pronoun, a conjunction, or a conjunctive adverb: as,

  • "The selfish man languishes in his narrow circle of pleasures. They are confined to what affects his own interests. He is obliged to repeat the same gratifications, till they become insipid. But the man of virtuous sensibility moves in a wider sphere of felicity."—Blair.
  • "And whether we shall meet again, I know not. Therefore our everlasting farewell take."—Shak., J. C.



The period is generally used after abbreviations, and very often to the exclusion of other points; but, as in this case it is not a constant sign of pause, other points may properly follow it, if the words written in full would demand them: as, A. D. for Anno Domini; Pro tem. for pro tempore; Ult. for ultimo; i.e. for id est, that is;

  • "Add., Spect, No. 285."
  • For "Addison, in the Spectator, Number 285th."
  • "Consult the statute; 'Quart.' I think, it is, 'Edwardi sext.,' or 'prim. et quint. Eliz.'"—Pope, p. 399.

Note of interrogation


The eroteme, or note of interrogation, is used to designate a question.

Questions direct


Questions expressed directly as such, if finished, should always be followed by the note of interrogation: as,

  • "Was it possible that virtue so exalted should be erected upon injustice? that the proudest and the most ambitious of mankind should be the great master and accomplished pattern of humility? that a doctrine so pure as the Gospel should be the work of an uncommissioned pretender? that so perfect a system of morals should be established on blasphemy?"—Jerningham's Essay, p. 81.
  • "In life, can love be bought with gold? Are friendship's pleasures to be sold?"—Johnson.

Questions united


When two or more questions are united in one compound sentence, the comma, semicolon, or dash, is sometimes used to separate them, and the eroteme occurs after the last only: as,

  • "When—under what administration—under what exigencies of war or peace—did the Senate ever before deal with such a measure in such a manner? Never, sir, never."—D. Webster, in Congress, 1846.
  • "Cannot you, and honoured with a christian name, buy what is woman-born, and feel no shame; trade in the blood of innocence, and plead expedience as a warrant for the deed?"—Cowper.
  • "Truths would you teach, or save a sinking land? All fear, none aid you, and few understand."—Pope.

Questions indirect


When a question is mentioned, but not put directly as a question, it loses both the quality and the sign of interrogation: as,

  • "The Cyprians asked me why I wept."—Murray.

Note of exclamation


The ecphoneme, or note of exclamation, is used to denote a pause with some strong emotion of admiration, joy, grief, or other feeling; and, as a sign of great wonder, it is sometimes, though not very elegantly, repeated: as,

  • "Grammatical consistency!!! What a gem!"—Peirce's Gram., p. 352.



Emphatic interjections, and other expressions of great emotion, are generally followed by the note of exclamation: as,

  • "Hold! hold! Is the devil in you? Oh! I am bruised all over."—Molière: Burgh's Speaker, p. 250.
  • "And O! till earth, and seas, and heaven decay, never may that fair creation fade away!"—Dr. Lowth.



After an earnest address or solemn invocation, the note of exclamation is now generally preferred to any other point: as,

  • "Whereupon, O king Agrippa! I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision."—Acts, xxvi, 19.
  • "Be witness you, immortal Lord of all! Whose thunder shakes the dark aerial hall."—Pope.

Exclamatory questions


Words uttered with vehemence in the form of a question, but without reference to an answer, should be followed by the note of exclamation: as,

  • "How madly have I talked!"—Young.
  • "An Author! It is a venerable name! How few deserve it, and what numbers claim!"—Id., Br. Po., viii, 401.