English Grammar in Context – Tense Timelines, Mindmaps, Writing Tips, and More...

How to Use the Exclamation Mark


Here is a summary of rules for using the exclamation mark:


RuleExample
Make a short, sharp statement of surprise or excitement"I don't believe it!"
Lead the reader towards a change in tone, indicating emotional change (e.g. anger or fear)"If you want to be treated like an adult, I suggest you act like one!"
Change the tone in a sentence, to introduce surprise or shock

"I was driving along the road, when suddenly I hit a dog!"

Emphasise and highlight more important part of a sentence; draw attention to the entire sentenceIt makes your work look unprofessional and it will make you look over-excited!
Convey a sense of amazement or deliver exciting informationScientists in Germany have developed a drug that they say will lead to the eradication of the Ebola virus by the year 2030!


An exclamation mark should only occur at the end of a sentence, replacing a full stop or question mark for completion. It is used in dialogue for expressing surprise or excitement, or in passive voice for emphasising a point of information that the writer believes might be surprising or exciting for the reader to discover.

Think of someone being amazed or shocked and saying, "I don't believe it!", or "No way! Are you serious?" or even "Oh, my God!"

All of these exclamations are shown in dialogue form. Note how the exclamation mark is always inside the quotation marks that close the sentence. Check out Quotation Marks for more on their placement.


Here's an example in a longer sentence:

"If you want to be treated like an adult, I suggest you act like one!"

In this example, the exclamation mark indicates a build-up of emphasis that the reader can interpret as a change in emotion. It tells us that the speaker's tone rises towards the end. This is a great way to express anger. This pattern can also be used to express or convey fear or shock:

"What is that? It looks dangerous!"

"I was driving along the road, when suddenly I hit a dog!"


When we write in a third-person perspective (which you will find in most novels and short stories), the narrative can also feature exclamation marks. They serve the same purpose as they do in dialogue, but it is not advisable to use them too often outside of dialogue. It makes your work look unprofessional and it will make you look over-excited!

As you can see from the previous sentence, the exclamation mark at the end emphasises the closing words, showing that they are the more important aspect of the sentence. Also, when you read a sentence ending with an exclamation mark, you are more likely to take more notice of what it says than other sentences just ending with a full stop.


We can also convey a sense of amazement or deliver exciting information:

Scientists in Germany have developed a drug that they say will lead to the eradication of the Ebola virus by the year 2030!


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