Exclamation Points (!) – What are They, and When to Use Them?

Time to read: 4 Minutes
Exclamation-Definition

The exclamation mark or point is one of the most intriguing forms of punctuation.

Known informally as a shriek or a bank and historically referred to as a note of admiration, exclamation points are used to denote extreme emotion in text, such as surprise, fear, or anger. Read on for all you need to know about the exclamation point.1

Exclamation Points – In a Nutshell

  • For emphasis, exclamation points are used after interjections and at the end of sentences.
  • You can use several exclamation points in informal writing, but this is unnecessary.
  • Exclamation points should be avoided in academic essay writing.

Definition: Exclamation points

The exclamation point is in the shape of an inverted ‘i’. It consists of a vertical line suspended over a single dot. In the English language, it is placed at the end of an exclamatory sentence in place of a period or full stop. It serves to emphasize heightened emotion.

When to use exclamation points

When is it necessary or relevant to use an exclamation point?

The definition follows the place of the exclamation point. In other words, exclamation points are placed at the end of an exclamatory sentence or a sentence expressing surprise, exasperation, admiration, or a command.

Here are some examples of sentences with exclamation points:

  • What a naughty dog!
  • Go away!
  • You’ve done amazingly well!

Exclamation points can also be used after the interjection:

  • Alas! You won’t be back for quite a while.
  • She moved slowly, and wham! she slipped on the ice.

When an interjection is linked to another word with which it is part, the exclamation mark is placed after the second term:

  • Damn it!
  • No, but!

Exclamation points with other punctuations

Did you know that it is possible to combine exclamation points with other forms of punctuation?

Period

Full stops or periods are not required when a punctuation mark is used as it is a mark of terminal punctuation itself.

Question mark

An interrobang is a little-known form of punctuation coined in the 1960s that combines a question mark with an exclamation point. It is non-standard and used for informal writing to add energy to a question.2

Exclamation points – Example sentences

Here are some excellent example sentences with exclamation points:

  • Of course, I will marry you!
  • Help!
  • I’ve forgotten my homework!
  • Get down on the floor now!’ shouted the bank robber.

The exclamation mark in parentheses

To mark astonishment or disbelief, an element of the sentence can be followed by an exclamation mark placed in parentheses:

  • There will be no bonuses (!) this year.

The interjection ô

The interjection ô, called vocative ô, can be used to challenge or invoke. But it can also express a feeling of joy, fear, admiration, etc.

In either of these uses, the ô must never be directly followed by the exclamation mark:

  • O surprise!
  • Oh, how I can’t wait for summer!

The informally used exclamation mark

Finally, the exclamation point can be doubled, tripled, and even combined with the question mark to express disbelief or astonishment.

However, this process is not recommended:

  • He left without his keys!!
  • He’s a lifeguard, and he’s afraid of water!!?

FAQs

An exclamation point expresses emotion, such as joy, regret, fear or anger.

In speech, it is enclosed by speech marks. For example, if the exclamation mark refers to the whole sentence, it should be placed at the end of the sentence.

Yes, it’s very straightforward to use as it is generally only placed at the end of a sentence in formal writing. The hardest thing is remembering not to overuse exclamation marks, as doing so dilutes their efficacy.

Exclamation marks are unusual in formal writing as heightened emotion is generally inappropriate. However, this does not mean there is a hard and fast rule about their use in formal writing. It is advisable to consider whether using a full stop would be more appropriate as excessive use of exclamation marks can be regarded as unprofessional, particularly in a workplace or academic environment.

Using multiple exclamation marks is increasingly common in comic or informal writing, such as in social media posts. However, using more than one does not increase its emphasis and is frowned upon by pedants.

Sources

1 Gunner Jennifer. “When and How To Use an Exclamation Point.” Accessed November 15, 2022. https://grammar.yourdictionary.com/punctuation/when/when-to-use-exclamation-marks.html

2 Mcleod Danielle. “The Interrobang Punctuation Mark(‽) – How to Use it Properly.” Accessed November 25, 2022. https://grammarist.com/interesting-words/interrobang-and-interabang/