When to Use an Exclamation Mark (with Examples)

When to Use an Exclamation Mark (with Examples)

An exclamation mark (!) is used to indicate a sudden order, intensity of emotion (such as surprise) or volume. Typically, an exclamation mark is used to end an:

An Exclamatory Sentence
An exclamatory sentence conveys excitement or emotion. It ends with an exclamation mark. For example:
  • You're late!
  • It's a pike!
Read more about exclamatory sentences.

An Imperative Sentence
An imperative sentence issues an order. It will end in an exclamation mark to show forcefulness. For example:
  • Get out!
  • Take the dog out the kitchen this instant!
  • Please leave.
  • (This is an imperative sentence, but it does not end with an exclamation mark because the order is not forceful.)
Read more about imperative sentences.

An Interjection
Interjections are words used to express feeling or sudden emotion. They can be standalone or as part of a sentence (usually at the start). An interjection can end in an exclamation mark to express a strong feeling or emotion. For example:
  • Jeepers! That was close!
  • (This is an interjection (shaded) followed by an exclamatory sentence.)
  • Overweight people now outnumber average people in America. Last month you were fat. Now you're average. Yay! Let's get a pizza! (Comedian Jay Leno)
  • (This is an interjection (shaded) followed by an imperative sentence that also expresses joy.)
Read more about interjections.

Why Should I Care about Exclamation Marks?

There are two noteworthy points related to exclamation marks:

(Point 1) Avoid exclamation marks in formal correspondence.

Exclamation marks have their place in fiction writing, verse, advertisements, signage, texts and informal emails, but – as a rule – they're not well suited to business correspondence.

There are, of course, dozens of business scenarios when an exclamation mark would be appropriate, but stay mindful that exclamation marks are considered a bit crass. In business correspondence, try to use your power of expression to avoid them. A downside with exclamation marks is they don't come with an explanation of what they're for (e.g., emotion, forcefulness, importance) or an indication of how strong they are, which leaves a lot of room for misinterpretation.
  • Please pay the invoice within 28 days of receipt!
  • (That's a pretty risky exclamation mark, if you ask me.)

(Point 2) Don't use more than one exclamation mark.

If it's appropriate to use an exclamation mark, then do. But don't use two (!!) or more (!!!) unless you're texting your mates. Using two or more is the social equivalent of laughing at your own jokes and, in anything even slightly formal, will probably be taken as rude or juvenile.
  • Five exclamation marks: the sure sign of an insane mind. (Author Terry Pratchett)

See Also

What are the types of sentences? What is punctuation? What is an exclamatory sentence? What is an imperative sentence? What are interjections?