Punctuation Clusters

Occasionally, you’ll come across an instance that seems to require multiple punctuation marks right next to each other. Sometimes you need to keep all the marks, but other times, you should leave some out.

  • You should never use more than one ending punctuation mark in a row (period, question mark exclamation point). When quoting a question, you would end with a question mark, not a question mark and a period:
    • Carlos leaned forward and asked, “Did you get the answer to number six?”
  • If an abbreviation, like etc., ends a sentence, you should only use one period.
    • I think we’ll have enough food. Mary bought the whole store: chips, soda, candy, cereal, etc.
  • However, you can place a comma immediately after a period, as you can see above with etc.
  • Periods and parentheses can also appear right next to each other. Sometimes the period comes after the closing parenthesis (as you can see in the first bullet), but sometimes it appears inside the parentheses. (This is an example of a sentence where the period falls within the parentheses.) We’ll learn more about this in Text: Parentheses.