How to Use an Exclamation Point

Using exclamation points too frequently will detract from their impact.
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Exclamation points, which help emphasize or exclaim portions or phrases of written text, allow you to underscore important ideas or stress emotion or conviction. While exclamation points can be used in multiple settings, they should appear only sparsely in your writing, particularly in more formal pieces.

1 Acceptable Uses

You can use exclamation points to end phrases that convey heightened levels of emotion. A shouted command might merit an exclamation point; for example: “Stop! That man took my wallet!” Alternately, exclamation points can also stress the joy or happiness of a situation. For example: “I couldn’t believe I’d found my dream job!” Exclamation points can appear within sentences to accentuate sounds. For example: “The growing whhhrrrr! told Mary that she was getting closer to the engine.”

2 Unacceptable Uses

You should never use an exclamation point in conjunction with another punctuation mark, such as a comma, question mark or period unless the exclamation point is part of a quotation. Aside from this absolute rule, exclamation points are limited only by your discretion. Because, however, the exclamation point is the textual form of exclaiming, or shouting, you should use this type of punctuation in extreme moderation, particularly in formal prose. The use of multiple exclamation points signals to others that you are an unsophisticated writer.

Teresa J. Siskin has been a researcher, writer and editor since 2009. She holds a doctorate in art history.