Ah, the overused exclamation mark. It peppers our papers and blogs in a desperate attempt to inject emphasis, often needlessly. It is used as additional insurance for a writer, making sure that emphatic statements are noticed. The difference between an experienced writer and one just starting out is the ability to make a statement strong enough to be noticed without the exclamation mark.
For the rest of us, here is a brief lesson –
Exclamation mark usage:
Feel free to use a single exclamation mark –
- after an actual exclamation. Ex: Wow! Boo! Yay!
- after a command. Ex: Stop! Wait!
- to show astonishment, surprise, or other extreme emotion. Ex: He’s the murderer!
It is acceptable to use multiple exclamation marks for additional emphasis. Ex: I love cheese!!! But note that it makes your writing sound giddy, like a teenage girl.
The exclamation mark can also be used together with the question mark to show puzzled astonishment or protest. Ex: They made him eat worms?! At one point the two marks were fused together into a new mark called an interrobang – it never caught on.
In formal writing the exclamation mark should rarely be used, if at all, because it is distracting and interrupts the train of thought. In casual writing, blogging, commenting its use is acceptable and for some, mandatory.
I think this quote sums things up nicely:
Cut out all those exclamation marks. An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own jokes.
—F. Scott Fitzgerald
For more information, including the historical roots of the exclamation mark, check out the Wikipedia Article: Exclamation Mark