Updated: Jan 11, 2022
When and Where to Use Exclamation Points
By Michael Heath / selfpublishingUS.com
F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.” Someone who laughs at his/her own jokes can be both annoying and eventually ignored. The same can be said of the exclamation point. Add too many of these punctuation marks and eventually no one wants to pay attention.
Types of Sentences
There are four types of sentences:
Declarative – Used to make a statement or offer an opinion. This sentence ends with a period (e.g., The sun is shining today.)
Interrogative – Used to ask a question. This sentence ends with a question mark. (e.g., Did the sun ever come out today?)
Imperative – Used to give a command or make a request. This sentence normally ends with a period, but occasionally ends with an exclamation point. (e.g., Look up at the sun. Look up at the sun, now!)
Exclamatory – Used to express emotion such as happiness, anger, or surprise. (e.g., Hey, look, the sun is out!)
Exclamation Points Should Be Used – Not Abused
Exclamation points are real punctuation marks and need to be used with both care and respect. Multiple exclamation points may be okay when texting (Hey, there!!!) or in comic books (Bang!!!), but in creative writing one is enough. Exclamation points are considered a bit informal so try to avoid them in academic and business writing. In those situations, lean more on the writing than the punctuation to drive your message. If you must get the attention of the sales team, there is more than one way to do it.
Informal: Sales must increase by fifteen percent by the end of the third quarter or else!
Formal: Management needs to see at least a fifteen percent increase in sales by the end of the third quarter or layoffs will be considered.
The exclamation point has an energy. Used occasionally, your reader will feel its impact. Used too often, this punctuation mark can lose its effectiveness to the point where no one pays attention. Sort of like what happens to that guy who laughs at his own jokes.
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