Also known as exclamation points, an exclamation mark is used to punctuate sentences. Placed at the end of a sentence, it is not as commonly used as periods or question marks. As they are not many rules regarding exclamation marks, it is quite easy to use.
Uses of Exclamation Marks
While periods punctuate declarative sentences and question marks punctuate interrogative sentences, exclamation marks are used to punctuate exclamatory sentences. More forceful than a declarative sentence, exclamatory sentences are statements that express or describe different kinds of excitement or emotion.
Example: Thank you for this lovely gift! (happy)
What an amazing story! (surprise)
Your dress looks beautiful! (enthusiasm)
I lost my bag at the airport! (sad)
You tore my book! (anger)
Exclamation marks can also be used to punctuate sentence fragments and interjections. While not uncommon, it can also be used to end a statement that is framed as a question.
Example: Bye! See you tomorrow.
Ouch! Your dog bit me!
Start your workshop after the weekend! The weather is really bad.
I have ruined my interview. How could I have been so forgetful!
Quotations and Exclamations
While exclamation marks are relatively easy to use at the end of sentences, the rules can get confusing when quotation marks are involved. However, this confusion can be easily mitigated by analyzing the sentence.
If an exclamatory sentence is enclosed in quotation marks, the exclamation mark should also be placed inside the quotation marks.
Example: “I don’t want to do it!” yelled Kyle.
Jenny nodded to Susan’s remark “your dedication is impressive!”
If the whole sentence is exclamatory, then the exclamation mark should be placed outside the quotation marks and at the end of the sentence. Usually, in such sentences, the words enclosed inside the quotation marks are not a complete sentence.
Example: Kyle yelled when his mom told him to “stop playing video games”!
Due to her “impressive dedication”, Jenny bagged another promotion!
Parenthesis and Exclamations
As with quotation marks, if the words within the parenthesis are exclamatory, the exclamation mark should be placed inside the parenthesis.
Example: As she didn’t know what it was (an antique sword!), Natalie called the cops.
Connor was upset because he didn’t get what he wanted (his dream job!).
If the entire sentence is exclamatory, the exclamation mark should be placed at the end of the sentence.
Example: No matter what happens, we will stay together (forever)!
While it (the power outage) happened during my shift, I am not responsible for it!
The Misuse of Exclamation Marks!
While the rules on using exclamation marks are relatively simple, curbing its unnecessary usage is definitely not! Excessive usage occurs mainly because emotions cannot be expressed in writing as much as it can while speaking. For example, when you call upon someone, your voice and tone convey your meaning and intention. However, when writing, emotions cannot be conveyed until an exclamation mark is added.
Example: Please, get here now. (without exclamation mark)
Please, get here now! (with exclamation mark)
An exclamation mark is used to convey stronger emotions. However, this leads many people to use this powerful punctuation in places where it is not needed. Using exclamations too often can render them less effective.
Some important aspects to remember are to use exclamations sparingly and only in informal or casual situations. If you need to express any kind of emotion in formal or academic writing, it’s better to use words with stronger meanings to convey your thoughts.