Punctuation does more than just clarify the meaning of a text. We can use it to create particular moods or convey specific effects, such as suspense, surprise or emphasis.
Learning these techniques can make your writing more dynamic and engaging.
Ellipses have a variety of purposes within sentences, including the indication of omitted (left out) words, creating suspense or showing a trailing-off thought.
- Indicating Omitted Words – If you are quoting a text and want to shorten it or focus on a specific part, ellipses can be used to indicate that some words have been left out. For example, an original quote: “She had a vibrant, sparkling and infectious laugh” might be shortened to “She had a… infectious laugh”.
- Creating Suspense – Ellipses can be used to create suspense by indicating an unfinished thought or a pause before the final part of the sentence. This can make the reader eager to find out what comes next. For example: “She opened the door, and then… silence.”
- Showing a Trailing-Off Thought – When a speaker’s voice or a writer’s thought trails off into silence, ellipses can be used to represent this effect. This can be useful in dialogue or in first-person narratives. For example: “I thought I knew him, but now… I’m not so sure.”
Exclamation Marks (!)
Exclamation marks are used to express strong emotion, surprise or emphasis. They are a powerful tool, but remember to use them sparingly in formal writing to maintain a professional tone. Overuse of exclamation marks can make the writing seem overly emotional or immature.
- Example 1 – Expressing Strong Emotion: “I can’t believe we won the game!”
- Example 2 – Signifying Surprise: “What a beautiful sunset!”
- Example 3 – Indicating Emphasis: “You must not go there!”
Question Marks (?)
Question marks are used at the end of direct questions, prompting the reader to consider a response. However, we can also use them to create rhetorical questions where no answer is expected, often to make a point or stimulate thought.
- Example 1 – Direct Question: “Will you be attending the party?”
- Example 2 – Rhetorical Question: “Is this the best we can do?”