Exclamation Point (!) – Learn How to Use it Properly

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Danielle McLeod

Danielle McLeod is a highly qualified secondary English Language Arts Instructor who brings a diverse educational background to her classroom. With degrees in science, English, and literacy, she has worked to create cross-curricular materials to bridge learning gaps and help students focus on effective writing and speech techniques. Currently working as a dual credit technical writing instructor at a Career and Technical Education Center, her curriculum development surrounds student focus on effective communication for future career choices.

Like every sentence needs to start with a capital letter, it also needs to end with an end mark. Exclamation points are a fun way to emphasize your sentences and provide your reader with a suggestion of emotion. 

Take a look at how to use an exclamation point to help create tone in your writing, and see how it can be used through various examples. 

What is an Exclamation Point?

An exclamation mark [!] (also called exclamation point) is one of three end marks you can choose from to mark the ending of your sentences. The exclamation mark is reserved for an exclamatory sentence in which strong emotions are required. It can also be used alongside a quotation mark to emphasize a question. 

Exclamation Mark Rules and Examples

Use an exclamation mark to end an exclamatory sentence, create a forceful imperative sentence, or with an interjection to create strong emotion.

Rule #1

Use an exclamation mark at the end of an exclamatory sentence. Exclamatory sentences emphasize emotion. 

For Example:

  • That movie was amazing!
  • No way that actually happened!
  • I love summer vacation!

Rule #2

Use an exclamation mark to emphasize a strongly worded imperative that demonstrates strong or forceful emotion. 

For Example:

  • Stay away from those railroad tracks!
  • Don’t touch my clean car!
  • Those wires are live!

Rule #3

Use an exclamation mark following a strong interjection.

For Example:

  • Yeah!
  • Wow!
  • Excellent!

Using Commas With Interjections and Exclamation Marks

Often, interjections appear before a short exclamatory sentence. You may either use a comma following the interjection and then followed by an exclamation mark to end the sentence. Or, you can use an exclamation mark following both the interjection and the sentence. 

For Example:

  • Cool, I can’t wait to meet him!
  • Cool! I can’t wait to meet him!

How to Use an Exclamation Mark With a Question Mark

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Even though using more than one end mark is frowned upon in formal writing scenarios, you can use both a quotation mark and an exclamation mark together to end a sentence. If you are unsure whether the exclamation marks go before or after the question mark, consider the purpose of their uses. 

Technically, you are asking a question, so your question mark should go first, followed by the exclamation mark to add emphasis.

For Example:

  • Are you sure you want to take that tone of voice with me?!

How to Use an Exclamation Mark With Quotations

There are two rules to apply when using exclamation points with quotation marks. The placement of the end mark is important to draw emphasis to the correct phrase. 

Rule #1

Place the exclamation mark inside the last quotation mark if it is part of the quotation. 

For Example:

  • Scientists close to the study exclaimed angrily in a recent press conference that “there [was] no conclusive way the information should have been released to the public this early in the study!”. 

Rule #2

Place the exclamation mark outside the last quotation mark if it is part of the sentence. 

For Example:

  • The media ran with the story, quoting the data release as “dangerous and inflammatory to the public”!

How to Use an Exclamation Mark With Parentheses

There are two rules to apply when using exclamation points with parentheses. The placement of the end mark is important to draw emphasis to the correct phrase. 

Rule #1

Place the exclamation mark inside the parentheses if it is part of the phrase being offset. 

For Example:

  • When we drive cross-country (no feat for the faint of heart with young children!), we always stop to take pictures at each state’s border.

Rule #2

Place the exclamation mark outside the parentheses if it is part of the overall sentence. 

For Example:

  • This year was incredibly challenging (my department was short-staffed by three teachers), but we managed to graduate every student!

Commonly Asked Questions Concerning Exclamation Point Use

Since exclamation points are designed to create emotion and emphasis, you might be concerned that their use could be misinterpreted in specific situations. These commonly asked questions should help clear up some of these concerns. 

Can an Exclamation Point Mean I’m Yelling?

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Exclamation points can ‌show strong emotions, such as joy, surprise, fear, or anger. Its use can create the impression of yelling when placed with specific interjections or at the end of strongly-worded sentences and phrases. 

Can I Use an Exclamation Mark After Good Morning or Other Greetings?

Feel free to use exclamation points after greetings to express your emotions concerning the person you are addressing. In this use, it suggests joy or surprise and generally offers a positive affirmation. 

Is it Rude to Use Exclamation Marks in Emails?

Much of your decision surrounding exclamation marks used in an email depends on who you address. It is generally considered acceptable for informal use towards acquaintances, friends, and family. 

It should be used sparingly for more formal use in work or business to avoid losing its meaning. Avoid its use unless you specifically want to highlight part of your message with emotion.

How to Use an Exclamation Point Writing

Facebook Dislike Button Is a Fake—,And I Dislike That! [PC World headline]

The rapper-actor was cleared of all charges and declared, “That’s what I’m talking about!” [Gothamist]

If things aren’t going the way you want, speak up! [Jezebel.com]

I’m looking for reader input on whether and when New York Times news reporters should challenge “facts” [!] that are asserted by newsmakers they write about. [New York Times]

Make sure you donate to Reid’s campaign, as it’s absolutely vital that this Good Democrat wins! [Salon.com]

Let’s Review

Exclamation points are end marks that add emotion to your words and bring attention to your written message. It should be used as a stand-alone end mark but, on occasion, may work alongside a question mark to provide surprise or anger when asking a question.