An exclamation mark is a punctuation mark usually used at the end of a sentence. This means that when an exclamation mark is used, it signifies the end of a sentence. You cannot use a full stop, a question mark, and an exclamation mark all at the same time, considering they are all used to signify an end. An exclamation mark is sometimes regarded as an exclamation point and can be identified when this symbol (!) is seen.
The first time exclamation marks were used in the English Language was in the 15th century. It was used to show emphasis and was referred to as the sign of admiration. However, it was in the 1970s that it was introduced to the typewriter. Today, it is on the computer’s keyboard, hovering over the number one.
The major function of the exclamation mark is to show excitement or shock. It can also be used to express surprise or any other strong emotion.
To use an exclamation mark in a sentence, you have to put it at the end of the sentence. Take a look at the examples below:
- I just got my own house.
- I just got my own house!
The first sentence does not convey the excitement of the subject, but the second sentence does so perfectly.
Also, exclamation marks are used after interjections. Interjections are words that convey the emotions of the subject. They could be used to express anger, sadness, excitement, fear, and so on. When they are used, an exclamation mark immediately comes after it. Examples are:
Also, you can use exclamation marks when quoting a person. But whenever you do this, the punctuation mark has to be inside the quotation marks. Here is an example:
- She cried, “My hands are on fire!”
- John screamed, “Oh my God, Peter is back home!”
Asides after interjections, an exclamation mark can be used after greetings, such as “Hello there!” It can also be used after commands such as “Stop!” It can be used to signify that the speaker is shouting. An example is this: “I’ll be out in a minute!” It can also be used to emphasize the facts of a statement such as “I want you to leave now!”
Also, for emphasis, it is normal to see people use more than one exclamation mark at the end of their sentences. This is mostly done informally. Grammatically, it is advised to use at least one exclamation mark at the end of your sentence, no matter the degree of excitement you want to convey to the reader.
For years, scholars have been divided on the use of the exclamation mark. Scott Fitzgerald once said that the use of exclamation marks was like laughing at your jokes. However, an editor, Rene Cappon disagreed. He believed that exclamation marks could be used to draw the attention of readers to a certain word or sentence. The editor further advised that the exclamation mark should be used to convey pain, anger, fear, surprise, and disgust.
Furthermore, a group of other writers agree that it should be used sparingly, while another group uses them as much as they want; an example is Tom Wolfe, whose works usually crawl with exclamation marks.
Punctuation marks should not be used with a full stop. For example:
Get out of my house!.
An exclamation mark should not be used with any other punctuation.
Due to the controversy still surrounding the punctuation mark, it is advised that you try to use it as little as possible in official or academic writing. To be even safer, you could ask the lecturer or recipient if the use of exclamation marks is allowed.