University of Houston-Victoria

University College

Punctuation

Author/Creation:  Krystal Hernandez, August  2009.

Summary:  Discusses the three different kinds  of end punctuation (period, question mark, and exclamation mark).  Discusses end punctuation and  citation.

Learning Objectives: To identify the three basic ending punctuations and  demonstrate how each is used in writing. To explain the rules  and  exceptions of the placement of ending  punctuations in specific situations. To punctuate sentences that include cited  material (quoted, paraphrased, or summarized) correctly.

 

There are three  basic ending  punctuations in writing: periods, exclamation marks  and question marks. Periods are used to end a completed statement, while exclamation and  question marks help define  a sentence’s purpose. Let’s consider the following three  sentences that demonstrate how these  ending  punctuations are used.

The  Period  (.)

I have homework.

Using  a period  indicates you are making a statement, giving a command, or asking  an indirect question.

 

The  Question Mark  (?)

Do I have homework?

Using  a question mark  indicates you are asking  a question.

 

The  Exclamation Mark  (!)

I have homework!

 Using  an exclamation mark  indicates the expression of particular emotions. Exclamation marks can represent excitement, shock, fear, warning, or other  strong emotions.

 

End Punctuation and Quotation Marks in Informal Writing

If you’re writing an informal document (e.g., an email  to a friend), you may need to use quotation marks  to signal  that you’re quoting something that someone  said or to indicate words that are being used in a special  way. For  instance, you may want  to indicate a word is being used ironically by putting it in quotation marks  (e.g., That new employee  is quite  “busy.”)

Let’s talk  about  each of the end punctuations and quotation marks.

The  basic rule of thumb for using  quotation marks  with  end punctuation is that periods  always go inside  closing quotation marks, and question marks  and exclamation marks  may go either inside  or outside the quotation marks, depending on the situation.

 

Quotation with  a Period

When a sentence ends with  quotation marks  (whether they  indicate a quotation or the use of irony),  the period  is included before the end quotation mark.

The  principal said that my son was “disrespectful and  academically unfocused.”

 

Quotations and Questions

If the question is part  of a quotation (or the question is the entire quotation), then  the question mark  appears before the end quotation marks. No other  end punctuation is needed.

 

Quoted Question. Mr.  Weinstein asked,  “Does anyone  know how to navigate the school’s website?”

If the quotation is a sentence within your question (as in the example  below, where the writer  is questioning what  the newsman said),  then  the question mark  will appear  after  the end quotation mark.  No other punctuation is needed.

 

Questioned Quote. Did  the newsman say, “The  CEO  of the company  G.T.E was arrested for defrauding its shareholders”?

 

Quotations and  Exclamations

Similar to the rules  above, if the exclamation is part  of a quotation that ends the sentence, then the exclamation mark  is placed before the end quotation.  No other  end punctuation is needed.

 

Quoted Shout. He shouted, “Watch  out!”

However, if the exclamation belongs to the writer, and not the original source, then the exclamation mark is included after the end quotation mark.  Notice in the example below that it’s the writer who’s expressing excitement about getting a raise. No other end punctuation is needed.

 

Shouted Quote. My boss finally  said,  “You’re getting a raise”!

 

End Punctuation when Using Source Material in Formal Writing

In  formal  writing situations (e.g., a research  paper  or researched report), you most  likely will use a formal  documentation style (like MLA or APA) which means  you’ll follow some special  rules about  how and  where the end punctuation is placed.  In  most  formal  business and  academic writing situations, you will need to cite source  material using  the documentation style of your discipline (or the one your instructor requires). And,  there  are some special  rules  you’ll need to follow in terms  of how and  where the end punctuation is placed.  Indeed, most  documentation styles have different rules  concerning all punctuation, especially  ending  punctuation.

Let’s look at examples  from the two most  common  documentation styles.

 

APA Documentation Style

For  a more comprehensive discussion of APA documentation style,  see our APA  Quick Reference Guide or the APA  Manual.  In  this  section  we’ll discuss  how to handle end punctuation and short quotations, long quotations, quotations within quotations, and  paraphrase and  summary in APA style.

Short Quotation
When using  quotation marks, you quote  a specific passage or phrase  word-for-word from a source that is either  written or oral.  When you are citing  a quotation in APA documentation style, short  quotations (which  contain less than 40  words) have the end punctuation placed after the citation.

Proctor (2003) stressed that “it is important that at least 70% of the universities in the U.S should  provide  hands-on instruction on molecular research  to students who specialize  in biochemistry” (p. 77).

Notice  that four elements are included in the in-text citation for a direct  quotation in APA: the author’s name,  the year, a pair  of quotation marks, and  the page or paragraph number. The period  generally  follows the final  parenthetical element in the sentence.  A fifth  element for a complete  citation is the inclusion of a corresponding reference  entry  on the reference  page.

 

Long Quotation
APA defines  long quotations as quotations that include  40  or more words. In  APA style,  end punctuations are placed before the citation in block quotations.  But  notice  that a block quotation requires no quotation marks—the special  indentation signals that the material is word-for-word from the text.

In  the book Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s  depiction of the character Fitzwilliam Darcy  set the mood of the book’s theme  of misconceptions and  judgments:

The  gentlemen pronounced him  to be a fine figure of a man,  the ladies declared  he was much  handsomer than Mr.  Bingley,  and  he was looked at with  great  admiration for about half the evening,  till  his manners gave a disgust which turned the tide  of his popularity; for he was discovered  to be proud, to be above his company, and  above being pleased;  and  not  all his large estate  in Derbyshire could then save him  from having  a most forbidding, disagreeable countenance, and  being unworthy to be compared with  his friend. (p. 100)

 

Quotation within  a Quotation
When you need to place a quotation inside  of a quotation, you would use single quotations to set off the inside  quotation. Single  quotations represent the quote inside  the double  quotations.

According  to Samson  (2009), “the  military defenses  of late have failed to deter  any abroad threats, especially  among  the waters.  These  particular threats have been named  ‘over sea sabotages’  by most  military officials”  (p. 24).

Notice  that the phrase  “over sea sabotages” is the quotation inside  another quotation. Inside quotations use single quotation marks  instead of double.   If “over sea sabotages” appeared at the end of the quote,  then  the quotation marks  will follow the single quotation mark. The  end punctuation will still  remain after  the citation.

According  to Samson  (2009), “the  military defenses  have failed to defer any abroad  threats. These  threats have been named  ‘over sea sabotages’”  (p. 24).

Writers  may wish to review the secondary  sources  section of the APA  Quick Reference Guide for information about how to cite secondary  sources  (when an author of an article  cites another author’s research) for how to correctly  format those  sources.

 

Paraphrase and Summary
Just  as when you are citing  a direct quotation, summarized and  paraphrased sentences in APA have the end punctuation after the citation.

Apparently, there was too much  chaos in the court to depict the defendant properly in an official court  drawing  (Jones,  2009).

In  APA style,  paraphrases and  summaries don’t generally  include  page numbers, but  the author’s name  and  year are included.

 

MLA Documentation Style

For  a more comprehensive discussion of MLA documentation style,  see our MLA Quick Reference Guide or the MLA Manual  for Writers of Research Papers.  In this  section  we’ll discuss  how to handle end punctuation and  short  quotations, long quotations, quotations within quotations, and  paraphrase and  summary in MLA style.

 

Short Quotation
When using  quotation marks, you quote  a specific passage or phrase  word-for-word from a source that is either  written or oral.  When you are citing  a quotation in MLA documentation style, short  prose quotations (which  take  up less than 4 lines in the text)  have the end punctuation placed after the citation. Unlike  in APA, short  and  long quotations in MLA are defined  by the number of lines in the text  they take  up.  Short quotations are less than 4 lines,  while long quotations occupy 4 lines or more in the text.

In  the first  press release since the incident, Jackson’s  lawyer asked,  “Why were the proper authorities not  notified after  the incident and why has the media  failed to mention it?”  (Roberts 10).

Notice  that three  elements are included in the citation for a direct  quote in MLA: the author’s name,  a pair  of quotation marks, and the page or paragraph number. The  period  follows the last closing  parentheses of the citation. A fourth element, a corresponding entry  on the works cited page is required for the citation to be complete.

 

Long Quotation
MLA defines  long quotations as quotations that include  more than 4 lines.  In  MLA style,  end punctuations are placed before the citation in block quotations.

The  witness  took the stand and  recalled  the events  of the night of June  7, 2005:

 

I was walking  alone to my car after  a movie. It was late and  I had parked far away from the theatre. While I pulled  out of the lot,  I noticed  a little red bag on the corner  of the road.   I would not  have noticed  it if I didn’t see it move. I hesitated a minute because I was unsure of what I saw. When I saw the bag move again,  I got out of the car. I immediately looked around to see if anyone  was around. No one was there. I suddenly felt something hit  me on the back of my head.  That was the last thing I remember. I don’t  know what  happened to me! (Smith 9085)

 

Quotation within  a Quotation
Like APA, MLA uses single quotation marks  to represent a quotation inside  a quotation.

Patel  indicates that “the  average high  school in the U.S.  will lose at least  5% of its study  body to drunk driving while another 15%  will be charged  with  ‘driving  under the influence’” (60).

Writers  may wish to review the secondary  sources  section of the MLA Quick Reference Guide for information about how to cite secondary  sources  (when an author of an article  cites another author’s research) for how to correctly  format those  sources.

 

Paraphrase and Summary

Just  as when you are citing  a direct quote,  summarized and  paraphrased sentences in MLA have the end punctuation after the citation.

Because  of the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, a whole new approach to film and  sound  was adopted by directors (Smith 50).

 

References

 

Peck,  F. (2007). End  punctuation. uOttawa, University of Ottawa, Canada.  http://www.uottawa.ca/academic/arts/writcent/hypergrammar/endpunct.html

 

Perrin, R. (2009). Pocket guide to APA  style (3rd  ed.). Boston: Cengage Learning.

 

Nordquist, R. (2009). End  punctuation: Periods, question marks, and exclamation points.

About.com: Grammar & Composition http://grammar.about.com/od/basicmarks/a/end_marks.htm

 

Using  your sources  wisely and  well. (n.d).  Retrieved July 7, 2009.

http://www.hs.ebruns.k12.nj.us/hs/style/chap2.html

 

The  Modern Language Association (2009). MLA handbook for writers of research papers (7th ed.). New York: New York.