The Exclamation Mark

The exclamation mark (!) is used in place of a period to add emphasis. The exclamation mark is used to express surprise, disbelief or extreme emotion and can turn a statement into a powerful one. It is used to grab your attention, and is used primarily in dialogue text to indicate excitement or astonishment. (“No!” he yelled. “I want it now!”)

The exclamation mark is used in place of a question mark to end a rhetorical question when no answer is expected. (“Isn’t she adorable!”)

The exclamation mark can be used following a single word to express intense feeling.

(Congratulations!) When using the word “oh,” an exclamation mark can be used to follow the word to add emphasis. (“Oh!  I didn’t see that!”)

The exclamation mark is used with words that describe sounds. (All day long the dog’s woof! could be heard in her garage.)

To add extra emphasis, a non-standard punctuation mark called an interrobang (^), which was created in the 1960s, merges the question mark with the exclamation mark. This punctuation mark was first used in publishing and advertising firms, and was not readily available on a typewriter. Therefore, it did not become a standard punctuation mark. Microsoft has it available in their Wingdings 2 set of fonts.  In some publications, you will see a question mark followed by an exclamation mark. (“Can you believe what he’s done?!”)

Many publishers do not use the exclamation mark at all, claiming strong writing will make it unnecessary and down-right distracting.

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