How Many Punctuation Marks Can You Accurately Place in Row?

In a recent course I was teaching, and in what turned into a somewhat off-topic, lighthearted discussion on punctuation (these are the kinds of conversations that may occur in a college business writing course), some students marveled aloud that you could place three punctuation marks in a row–like when you have a question inside of a parenthetical reference and the end of a sentence (see how it works here?).

A student got excited (isn’t college fun?) and blurted out, “What if the last word in the parenthetical reference was part of a quote? Could you have four punctuation marks in a row?”

Well, indeed you could.

By the end of the discussion, somehow I was challenged to write a sentence with as many punctuation marks in a row as I could, according to accurate English rules. The goal? Six.

Challenge accepted.

I determined that, if you were to end a sentence with a parenthetical comment, and that comment was a quote within a quote that ended in a question and the final word of the question was rewritten by the author (hence needing brackets), you could, indeed, end a sentence that finished with a bracket, question mark, single quotation, double quotation, parenthesis, and exclamation point.

And so, here’s your sentence:

Six-Punctuation-Marks-in-a-Row

 

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