An exclamation mark is used to make a forceful comment or exclamation, or to express surprise, admiration, or another other strong emotion. Use it to:
- Punctuate a phrase, sentence, or interjection.
- I had no choice!
- You just lost that opportunity forever!
- Good Grief! That's terrible!
- Replace a question mark if emphasis is more important.
- Are you still here!
- Do you realize what you've done!
However, don't use an exclamation mark unless you absolutely must - in order to create a certain effect. The emphasis created by an unnecessary exclamation mark will seem exaggerated and out-of-place. It will detract from the reading experience rather than enhancing it. Instead, use the sequence of your words to create emphasis where you want it. Finally, do not use an exclamation point to alert readers to humor or irony. Your readers prefer to decide on their own whether what you have written is amusing. Further, humor is better achieved through understatement, the opposite of emphasis.
When using an exclamation mark, remember that:
- When used within brackets, parentheses, dashes, or quotation marks, a
exclamation mark applies only to the material enclosed with it. However, the exclamation mark applies to the entire sentence if it appears outside brackets, parentheses, dashes, or quotation marks.
- When his wife turned to correct him (for a fourth time in fifteen minutes!), he finally lost his temper.
- He jumped to his feet and roared, "I'm out of here!"
- At this rate, we won't finish until summer!
- An exclamation point that is used where a comma could be placed does away with the need for a comma.
- "No way!" he retorted.
- Over my dead body! He replied angrily.
- When a title contains an exclamation point, it may be followed by a comma, unless the title appears at the end of the sentence. In the latter case, neither a comma nor a period is used.
- Hey! I was born in East LA! which was released to theaters in the 1980s, was a film that starred Cheech Marin.
© G.A. Robinson 2002-2013