Elizabeth O'Brien

Hello! I'm Elizabeth O'Brien, and my goal is to get you jazzed about grammar. 

The Exclamation Mark
!

Do you know when to use the exclamation mark (aka exclamation point)? This punctuation mark has two jobs, and we're exploring them right now. Yay! 

Before we learn how to use them, let's learn a little bit about their history. Where did these punctuation marks come from? One theory explaining the origin of the exclamation point is that it comes from the Latin word io, which means hurray.

Medieval scribes would write io at the end of sentences to show joy.

Exclamation Mark

It's thought that at some point the i moved over the o, the o became a small point, and the dot on the i was removed, giving us what we know of today as the exclamation point. 

One other fun fact about this punctuation mark it that typewriters, which were invented in the late 1800s, didn't have a key for the exclamation point until the 1970s. Until that time, people would create exclamation marks by typing a period followed by a backspace and an apostrophe. 

Rules for Exclamation Marks

Before we get down to brass tacks, I need to issue a warning about using exclamation marks. This punctuation mark is not embraced in formal writing, so avoid them if you're writing anything formal. If you do use them in your informal writing, be sure to use them in moderation and only use one at a time.

It's exciting that you can use these in informal writing!

Do not use them like this!!!!!!

Without further ado, here are two ways to use exclamation marks.

1. Punctuating Exclamatory Sentences

2. Punctuating Interjections

1. Punctuating Exclamatory Sentences

You may use an exclamation mark at the end of a sentence that is expressing strong emotion. 

I've looked everywhere, and I can't find the peanut butter!

I wish that Lenora would stop drawing on the new couch!

When we end sentences this way, we categorize the sentence as an exclamatory sentence. (This is in contrast to the other three types of sentences: commands, statements, and questions.)

Note that you may also end quotations that show strong emotion with an exclamation mark. 

"I can't find the peanut butter!" he yelled.

"Don't draw on the new couch!" I warned.

2. Punctuating Interjections

Interjections are one of the parts of speech. They are words that show emotion, and they are not grammatically connected to the rest of the sentence. When you want to show strong emotion from an interjection, punctuate it with an exclamation mark.

Hurray! My teacher gave me an A!

Yuck! This hamburger is disgusting!

When the feeling of an interjection isn't as strong, punctuate it with a comma instead. 

Rats, I dropped a dime. 

Oops, I left the milk out.

Elizabeth O'Brien from Grammar Revolution

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Now you know how to use an exclamation mark.

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Elizabeth O'Brien

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