When it comes to writing a story, the words are only part of what makes it flow. There are many other key factors that play a role in writing fantastic sentences. One of those key factors is the punctuation that you use. I’ve already discussed commas, so now we’re going to focus on ending punctuation.
Ending punctuation all depends on what it is you’re trying to say. Are you simply stating something, asking a question, or is something exciting happening? And let’s not forget punctuation in dialogue. Before we begin, let me start off by saying that a period is not required after other ending punctuation. I don’t know why, but I’m noticing a trend where people will use “!” followed by “.” or “?” followed by “.” The ending punctuation is just that – the ending punctuation. There is no period needed to show the sentence ended.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s move on to discussing the three most common ending punctuations and how to punctuate dialogue.
Most sentences end with a period. Every sentence I’ve written in this blog so far ends with a period. Contrary to popular belief, it is not the only ending punctuation. A period is used when stating facts or complete thoughts. Below are some examples:
- I had cake today.
- I have work tomorrow.
- I need to go to the store.
- It’s going to be sunny tomorrow.
When used as “…”, it is called an ellipsis and has a completely different meaning from the regular period. An ellipsis indicates a word omission or an incomplete thought. For example:
- I think…
- I would love to call her a…
- Maybe I’ll just…
These are very common in dialogue, which I’ll discuss in further detail later.
The Exclamation Point
Exclamation points on their own can end sentences. However, the sentences that they end are considered to show excitement or require a louder voice. They are more than just facts. They express an emotion and set a mood. Here’s some examples:
- I love cake! Please, give me cake!
- I can’t wait to go to work tomorrow!
- Ugh, I don’t want to go to the store!
- I wish it was snowing, not sunny!
The way these should be said when read aloud is far different from the way the above sentences are read. It’s difficult to explain in words, but to put it simply – the period is a robot reading, and the exclamation point is an excited dog with too much energy. Even that doesn’t describe it too well, but I’ll have a chance to give some audio examples on my Instagram.
With the exclamation point, you can show fear, anger, frustration, and so much more. Imagine a child runs into a busy street after a ball. A parent is not just going to say, “Oh, look out.” No, they are going to be screaming at the top of their lungs, “Look out!” That is what the exclamation point is for.
The Question Mark
As is implied in the name, the question mark is for questions. Just like exclamation points, they end sentences on their own. There is no period needed after a question mark. There are a few different ways you can use commas creatively:
- We need chips, right?
- Do you have shoes on?
As you can see from the above examples, one is a simple question – “Do you have shoes on?” The other is a statement with a question attached. If you read my post on clauses, you’ll notice this is an independent clause with a dependent clause attached by a comma. You must use the comma.
Each of these sentences are stated in a different way. Again, I’ll give verbal examples of this on my Instagram.
When it comes to dialogue, you have to think about how you’re ending your dialogue. For example:
- “We need cake,” he said.
- “Don’t leave me!” she cried.
- “Are you okay?” she asked.
- “I need help.” He sighed, rubbing his forehead.
If you’re going to add “he said” or “she said” to the end of a sentence that would normally end with a period, you drop the period and add a comma instead. Sentences with exclamation points or question marks keep them even with the ending “she cried” or “she asked”. You can also completely omit the ending parts and just have the dialogue.
When it comes to choosing the right punctuation to end your sentences, it’s important to read your work out loud. Don’t forget to check out my Instagram Story to see just how you would read certain sentences out loud. That will help you decide what you need to end your sentence.