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Exclamation Point (!)

The exclamation point is a mark of terminal punctuation. As such, it should not be followed by a period or question mark. The exclamation mark is a punctuation mark usually used after an interjection or exclamation to indicate strong feelings or high volume (shouting) and often marks the end of a sentence.

Defining the term

The exclamation point (!) is a full-stop punctuation mark that is used to convey an exceptional level of volume on the part of the speaker. Exclamation points typically come after statements that are made with great amounts of urgency, fear, frustration, anguish, rage, and other intense emotions. 

Don't touch that dial!

Somebody help!

Get lost!

Though it's not often associated with positive feelings, the exclamation point is sometimes used to emphasize statements of joy and excitement.

Look at the elephants!

Hey, take a look out the balcony! There's a double rainbow out there!

Oh my god, I love this song!

When to use an exclamation mark

An exclamation point is almost always placed after an interjection, which typically consists of one-to-three words that may or may not make sense when removed from their overall context:

  • Ouch!
  • No!
  • Yikes!

In many cases, interjections consist of expressions rather than words:

  • Eeek!
  • Aaahh!
  • Urgh!
  • Ewww!

An exclamation point is also standard after imperatives, such as when an order or command is being given:

  • Stop that!
  • Get off of there!
  • Put your hands up!
  • Go to your room!

Exclamation points increase the intensity of harsh words, such as when a speaker is scolding, reprimanding, or threatening another party:

  • You're fired!
  • You're grounded!
  • Hand me your wallet!
  • No dessert for you!

Exclamation marks found in variety of writing

In fiction, such as flash fiction, an exclamation point will often mark a shift in the overall mood of the storyline, as demonstrated in the following passage:

"A nice, sunny day to be running this test, Banner. This should be really amazing, watching that great big mushroom shoot up into the sky."

"Yes, indeed. This bomb that I've developed will reassert the United States' position as leader and defender of the free world."

"Dr. Banner, it's an honor to be here today to witness history in the making as we test the world's first gamma bomb."

Overuse of the exclamation point is considered to be a habit of amateur writing; therefore, restraint is advised. Abuse of the mark can be prevented by distinguishing expressions that don't merit exclamation points from those that do: irritation versus rage; sadness versus sorrow; happiness versus euphoria; energy versus hyperactivity; etc.

Though the exclamation point is a sentence-ender and not part of any word, per se, the mark is sometimes added to words for use in movie titles (Airplane!), show names (Jeopardy!), and corporate trademarks (Yahoo!).

English band Ultravox used an exclamation mark at the end of their name for their first two albums (both 1977): Ultravox! and Ha! Ha! Ha! 

Pop duo Wham! also used the mark at the end of their name, though it has often been omitted in press write-ups on the act.

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