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  • Raghav Sand

English Essentials: Full Stop, Question Mark and Exclamation Mark

Last week, in the second installment of English Essentials, we got an overview about the Colon and Semicolon. This week its the turn of Full Stop, Question Mark and Exclamation Mark. The significance of punctuation is shared below for a quick recap.

Significance of Punctuation

Punctuation is an aspect of written English. We cannot use or not use a comma or semicolon because we like it or do not feel like using it. Perhaps people use commas merely because they might pause there in speech. Improper punctuation makes it difficult for the reader and ultimately the essence of message may get lost. In spoken English, we can use all sorts of tricks to make our meaning clear. Even if everything fails, we have the option of repeating what we have said. Through these series of articles, readers will be given a brief outline of common punctuation, and hopefully we can together get better at using them in our everyday written communication.

The Full Stop

The primary use of full stop (.), also called the period, is to indicate the end of a sentence. Period is used in a number list and it is also used to terminate abbreviations. For example:

  1. Knowledge is power.

  2. Temperatures are expected to breach multi-year lows this year.

  3. Mr. / etc. / U.N.

In the three examples given above, period has been used after numbers one, two and three. It is also used at the end of each sentence and abbreviations.

Omission of one or more words or sentences in a quotation is indicated by three periods. In case the omission is after the end of a complete sentence, the three periods are added after the period that terminates the sentence. For example: “Unless and until you inspire the people, you will not get results….Inspiration will always give you the results.”

Common Error with Period

While using the period in a sentence we should try to avoid a common error. Let us try to understand the error and solution with the help of an example:

New Delhi has poor air quality, Kolkata is not too far behind.

These are two complete sentences, but the first one is punctuated only with a comma. The simplest solution is to replace the comma with a period. Now let us look at an improved and correct, but clumsy sentence. It is not advisable to use two short sentences in a row.

New Delhi has poor air quality. Kolkata is not too far behind.

Another way to modify the incorrect example will be to use a connecting word like and or while.

New Delhi has poor air quality, while Kolkata is not too far behind.

Here two independent sentences have been combined with a joining comma, and now we need only one full stop at the end. To learn more about commas, please click on this link to access our previous article on ‘English Essentials: Commas’.

The Question Mark

A question mark (?) is placed at the end of a sentence which is a direct question. Sometimes a question mark is used within brackets to indicate doubt or uncertainty. A question mark is not used in an indirect question. Examples of correct usage of the question mark are given below:

  1. What is your favourite childhood memory? (Direct question)

  2. How are you? (Direct question)

  3. We plan to have a celebration on his November 19 (?) birthday. (Uncertain about the birth date)

  4. The official asked how many of us are beneficiaries of direct benefit transfer scheme. (Indirect question)

Exclamation Mark

The exclamation mark (!) is used at the end of a word, phrase, or a sentence which expresses very strong feeling. It is rarely used in formal writing. Effectiveness of exclamation mark is diminished by overuse. Few examples of using the exclamation are given below:

  1. Help!

  2. Wow!

  3. What an amazing view!

  4. Yay! We won!

  5. Congratulations! You just learned everything you need to know about exclamation mark.

Topic for next week

In the fourth installment of English Essentials we shall cover Italics and boldface.

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