Posted by: Jodi | May 12, 2010

Adding Emphasis with the Exclamation Mark!

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



  1. What?! You! Can’t! Mean! It!?:;

    • [head smacks desk]

  2. ARE YOU SERIOUS?!?!?!?!?!?!!! I would probably curl up and DIE without my ubiquitous QM’s and XM’S and all the M’s!!!!!!! And, excuse me, Mr. F. Scott: if I didn’t laugh at my own jokes, then no one would!!! (But, thanks for the reminder…if I ever decide to write seriously, I’ll keep it in mind.)

    • I had a feeling that I’d hear from you about this. No worries, like I said with blogging, you are almost expected to write in a more casual style. You can keep your QM’s and XM’s.

  3. I write, interjecting exclamations marks freely.

    Time permitting, I take most of them out again.

    Cheers! (oops, one that got away)

  4. An interrobang! What does it look like!? Have you ever seen one???!!!!

    • If you follow the link to the Wikipedia article there is a list of punctuation marks down the right hand side, there is an interrobang there as well as a host of other interesting unused marks.

  5. […] Adding Emphasis with the Exclamation Mark! – When it is okay and not okay to use Mr. “!” […]


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