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These are all the punctuation marks that tell your readers they need to stop.  Their sole purpose is to separate complete thoughts from being Run-Ons.

There are five kinds of terminating punctuation.  That’s it.  That’s all.  They are:

  • Period
  • Exclamation Point
  • Question Mark
  • Semi-colon
  • Coordinating Conjunction

Think of them like traffic control

A period is like a stop sign at the intersection of a really busy street.  You really need to stop. 

An Exclamation Point is that stop sign with a flashing red light.  You really, really need to stop. 

The question mark is like when the traffic lights are out at a busy intersection.  Everybody stops and then looks at each other, wondering who should go first.

A Semi-Colon, on the other hand, is like a stop sign on a side street.  You really should stop.  And you will.  Next time. 

And a coordinating conjunction is like that stop sign out in the middle of nowhere where you can see forever in any direction and nobody is coming.  Stop?  Who are we kidding?  They’ll be lucky if I slow down. 

So, really, it all comes down to what kind of stop you need to make.  If you want to show a distinct break between two complete thoughts, use a period or an explanation point.  If you want to show that those two complete thoughts are separated, but still show a link, then use a semi-colon.  But if you want that link to be there but be fairly non-existent, then use a coordinating conjunction.  And if it’s a question, then use a question mark.  That’s one’s a bit obvious, don’t you think?