Improve your English: the exclamation mark

exclamation: /ˌekskləˈmeɪʃ(ə)n/ (noun) something that you say loudly and suddenly because you are surprised, excited, angry, very happy etc.

 

Exclamation mark

What an unusual exclamation mark!

The exclamation mark (!) is also known as the exclamation point in American English.

An exclamation mark is a punctuation mark placed at the end of a word, phrase or sentence to show that something is said loudly, with emphasis, or expressing a strong emotion.

For example:

I’ve just booked my holiday to Copenhagen!

My sister had her baby last night!

We waited two hours for the doctor to see us!

 

They’re sometimes used after interjections:

Hey! That’s my sandwich!

Ouch! That really hurt!

Yikes! I haven’t done my English homework.

Hi! How are you?

Ah! I understand now.

 

Exclamation marks are also used in exclamatory non-question sentences beginning with what or how:

What a beautiful day!

What an amazing view!

How fantastic!

 

They can be used to express emotions such as surprise or disbelief:

I don’t believe it!

You can’t be serious!

 

Or to express strong feelings:

I hate you!

I love you!

 

Or when giving strong commands or instructions:

Stop it!

Shut up!

Go away!

Come here!

Make sure you’re home by midnight!

Hurry up!

Don’t use too many exclamation marks!

 

An exclamation mark can be added to a question mark to ask a question plus express an emotion such as anger or surprise:

Where have you been all night?!

Did you really make your wedding dress yourself?!

 

Exclamation marks are not usually used in formal writing. Don’t use them in things like essays, reports, CVs/resumés, and business letters.

They’re used in writing that represents ordinary speech, for example in stories, personal letters, emails, text messages, and advertising.

In theory, exclamation marks should be used sparingly and you should use one only if you’re sure your writing needs it. If you use too many they lose their impact.

However, sometimes writers use more than one exclamation mark when they want to express an especially strong exclamation:

I am so angry with you!!

And many people use a lot of exclamation marks in their emails, text messages, and Facebook updates.

Oh my god!! I’ve just seen the most amazing pair of shoes!!! I must have them!!!!!!!     🙂

Do you think it’s OK to use a lot of exclamation marks in emails and text messages? Do you use them a lot?

 

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Angela Boothroyd

Angela Boothroyd

English language teacher at Botanical Linguist
Hi, I'm Angela, the Botanical Linguist, and I show learners of English how to become successful and self-directed or independent language learners. If you want to improve your English accuracy and fluency and learn everyday strategies and activities that will help you learn English without spending a lot of money on lessons, subscribe to my free newsletter here.
Angela Boothroyd
Angela Boothroyd
Angela Boothroyd

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Comments

  1. I love exclamation marks!!! Sorry, I couldn’t resist 😉
    Sarah Arrow recently posted..Can you use Glossi to extend your reach?My Profile

  2. Yes, I do use them a lot, especially when excited by something, for example, ‘Guess where I am? I am sitting in the middle of a heavenly scented bluebell wood!!!’ 🙂
    Anita recently posted..Review: The 30 day praise challengeMy Profile

    • And because I know how much you love bluebell woods, I’d be able to tell from the exclamation marks just how excited you were and they would be a very effective way of showing how you feel, I think 🙂

  3. Do I think it is OK to use a lot of exclamation marks in emails and text messages?
    No!
    At least, not for me.
    But I see the problem. Without an exclamation mark, a sentence can seem staid… especially in a sea of other people’s exclamatory emails.
    And there doesn’t seem to be a halfway house between the poor old full stop and an exclamation mark…
    If someone wanted my advice because they were carried away be exclamitis! – I would ask whether they speak in exclamations… and if not, then to forswear them in emails.
    David Bennett recently posted..Where You Can Find Cards Like TheseMy Profile
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    • It’s interesting – I definitely don’t speak in exclamations but I do like to use them now and then in very informal messages to friends etc. I know some people try and limit themselves to no more than one per message/email. And it occurred to me while I was writing the post that they’re probably used in much greater numbers, and more frequently, by women/girls than by men/boys. I expect someone somewhere has done some research into this 🙂

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