(!) An exclamation mark (UK) / exclamation point (US) is like the full stop or period—it is generally used at the end of a sentence. It is used to show sentences that express strong feelings or a command, emphasize something, or represent something said loudly or forcefully.
Exclamation Mark / Exclamation Point (!)
What is an exclamation mark?
The exclamation mark (!) shows emphasis, forcefulness, strong emotion, or a commanding tone. Informally, writers may use more than one exclamation point for a stronger effect, but this is rarely done in formal writing.
When to use an exclamation point
The exclamation point is used to show the end of a sentence that contains strong emphasis of some kind.
The sentence may express strong feeling:
- Your fried rice is really good!
- I love you! Can’t you understand that?
The sentence may express a command or strong warning:
- Don’t buy the car! You don’t have enough money for the payments.
- If we don’t run, we’ll miss the train!
It may also be used for a short command or outburst (an “exclamation”) of one or two words.
Sometimes, in informal writing, the exclamation mark can be combined with a question mark to show a mixture of surprise and disbelief.
- Was that my sister I saw you with last night?!
- Jared told me he was thinking about marriage!? This is the first time he’s mentioned anything like this.
Formal writing tends to avoid the use of the exclamation mark, which is somewhat informal. A forceful argument is better if it is convincing on its own merits, rather than relying on the use of exclamation marks. But if a strong statement is represented in dialogue, the exclamation mark should be used.
- “Buy now! The price of this car is going up tomorrow!” the salesman shouted.
- “Stop right there, and put your hands above your head!” the police officer said.
An exclamation point is sometimes used in parentheses to show surprise or skepticism on the writer’s part.
- The writer goes on to argue that we could do away with money altogether (!) if his system were adopted.
A plain exclamation mark on a road sign (rarely used in the US) is a warning to be alert for danger ahead.
How to use the exclamation mark with quotation marks
If the exclamation point is part of the quotation, put it inside the closing quotation mark, and do not add any other punctuation. If the quotation would normally end with a comma (such as before “he said”), the exclamation point can fulfill the function of the comma.
- “I’m so excited!” my roommate said. “My boyfriend is coming to visit tomorrow!”
- “I’ve bought my ticket! I’m going to go to Vietnam!” my sister told me.
If the quotation does not include the exclamation mark, put the exclamation point outside the closing quotation mark.
- My boss said I was doing “a great job”!
The exclamation point and old typewriters
If you look at an old typewriter, you often won’t find an exclamation mark on the keyboard. Does that mean that people didn’t use them before the computer age? Not at all. You could make an exclamation point by typing a period, backspacing, and then typing an apostrophe above the period!