23rd October 2019
Punctuation Tips: How to Use the Exclamation Mark
Are you ready for some punctuation fun?! Today, we’re looking at how to use the exclamation mark in your written work!
Also known as an exclamation point, the exclamation mark is becoming more common, especially online (the Wild West of the written word). But when should you use them? And are there any rules about this? In this post, we set out a few things you should know about exclamation points.
When to Use an Exclamation Mark
Originally called a “note of admiration,” exclamation marks express excitement, surprise or other strong emotions. We tend to see them used with short interjections (e.g., “Wow!” or “Stop!”), too.
There’s no restriction on the type of sentence that can end with an exclamation point, but they’re best saved for something forceful or emphatic.
Punctuating Exclamation Marks
Exclamation marks are a form of terminal punctuation, so they usually take the place of a period at the end of a sentence:
I’m so excited about punctuation! ✓
I’m so excited about punctuation!. ✗
You can also use exclamation points in brackets within a longer sentence.
In these cases, make sure to end the sentence with a standard period, even when the bracketed exclamation is at the end of the sentence:
Punctuation doesn’t excite me (not even exclamation marks!). ✓
Punctuation doesn’t excite me (not even exclamation marks!) ✗
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Furthermore, when an exclamation point occurs in written dialogue, it replaces the comma that usually appears before the closing speech mark:
“I can’t believe you ate the whole thing,” Bob said. ✓
“I can’t believe you ate the whole thing!” Bob said. ✓
“I can’t believe you ate the whole thing!,” Bob said. ✗
The Exclamation Mark in Formal Writing
Exclamation marks are rare in formal writing, which is usually fairly dry in tone. Excited enthusiasm is usually inappropriate in an essay, for instance.
This isn’t to say you can never use an exclamation mark in formal writing. But you should only do so if necessary; a period will be better most of the time.
Too Many Exclamations!!!
The author Terry Pratchett once suggested that sanity is inversely proportional to the number of exclamation marks a person uses. This is a little harsh, but it’s true that multiple exclamation points at the end of a sentence are rarely necessary, even in less formal writing.
So remember: one exclamation point is enough most of the time! The only reason you’ll need more is to give the impression of someone losing control.
Added warning: IF YOU COMBINE EXCLAMATION MARKS WITH ALL CAPS, YOU CAN SEEM A BIT SHOUTY!!!!
And if you’d like anyone to check the punctuation in a document, or any other aspect of your writing, feel free to get in touch with our expert editors today.
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