Terminal Points

 

 

The general rule is that a sentence ends with only one terminal punctuation mark. There are three options:

 

Period

Question mark

Exclamation point

 

There are enough exceptions to this general rule, however, to warrant the following chart, which shows nearly all of the scenarios you are likely to face.

 

Most authorities, including The Chicago Manual of Style, have traditionally rejected any situation where a question mark and an exclamation point both appear at the end of a sentence, even when such usage was logical. In a break with tradition, the latest (16th) edition of The Chicago Manual of Style now permits both punctuation marks to appear. Such usage is reflected in the chart below.

 

End of sentenceSentence is a statementSentence is a questionSentence is anexclamationRule: Keep the period for the abbreviation; do not add an additional period. Please meet us at 10:00 a.m.Rule: Keep the period for the abbreviation; end the sentence with a question mark. Are we supposed to meet at 10:00 a.m.?Rule: Keep the period for the abbreviation; end the sentence with an exclamation point. She told us to be there at 5:00 a.m.!Rule: The question mark ends the sentence; no additional period. His first appearance on Broadway was in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?Rule: The question mark in the name or title ends the sentence; no additional question mark.  Who plays the lead in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?Rule: Place the exclamation point immediately after the question mark. I can't stand Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?!Rule: The question mark (inside the closing quotation mark) ends the sentence; no period. She kept asking, "Why me?"Rule: The question mark (inside the closing quotation mark) ends the sentence; no additional question mark. Did you just ask, "Why me?"Rule: Place the exclamation point immediately after the closing quotation mark. Stop asking, "Why me?"!Rule: The exclamation point ends the sentence; no additional period. He works at Yahoo!Rule: Place the question mark immediately after the exclamation point. Does he still work at Yahoo!?Rule: The exclamation point in the name or title ends the sentence; no additional exclamation point. I can't believe you're still using Yahoo!Rule: The exclamation point (inside the closing quotation mark) ends the sentence; no period. She ended the letter with a cheerful "Good luck!"Rule: Add a question mark after the closing quotation mark. Who screamed, "The house is on fire!"?Rule: The exclamation point (inside the closing quotation mark) ends the sentence; no additional exclamation point. Her letter of resignation was a single sentence: "I'm out of here!"Rule: The sentence ends with a single period inside the closing quotation mark. He called Vienna the "most cultured city in the world."Rule: No period inside closing quotation mark; question mark after closing quotation mark. Who said, "I think, therefore I am"?Rule: No period inside closing quotation mark; exclamation point after closing quotation mark. Even though half the building was on fire, they told us to "keep calm and carry on"!Rule: Keep the period for the abbreviation (inside the closing quotation mark); no additional period. She said, "The flight leaves at 10:00 a.m."Rule: Keep the period for the abbreviation (inside the closing quotation mark); add a question mark after the closing quotation mark. Didn't he tell us to be there "no later than 7:30 a.m."?Rule: Keep the period for the abbreviation (inside the closing quotation mark); add an exclamation point after the closing quotation mark. This ticket says to arrive "no later than 5:00 a.m."!Rule: The main sentence takes a period outside the closing parenthesis no matter what punctuation is included inside the parenthetical element. She worked as an executive in the automotive industry (at Ford) and in the tech sector (at Yahoo!).Rule: The main sentence takes a question mark outside the closing parenthesis no matter what punctuation is included inside the parenthetical element. Can you believe how much money he has made from his Where's Wally? series of books (published in the US as Where's Waldo?)?Rule: The main sentence takes an exclamation point outside the closing parenthesis no matter what punctuation is included inside the parenthetical element. He will not accept any papers submitted even one minute past the deadline (5:00 p.m.)!AbbreviationName or title of work ending with a question markQuotation ending with a question markName or title of work ending with an exclamation pointQuotation ending with an exclamation pointQuotation ending with a period (not an abbreviation) or no punctuationQuotation ending with a period as part of an abbreviationParenthetical