What is an Exclamation Mark?
Also referred to as an exclamation point, the exclamation mark – much like a question mark and full stop - goes at the end of exclamatory sentences. You are likely to use them less often, but exclamation marks are very easy to use.
What Is an Exclamation Mark for?
Need to emphasize anger, delight, surprise or any other emotion in writing? The exclamation mark is all yours.
Leave the room right now!
My brother won the competition. Yes!
It's also not uncommon to find an exclamation mark at the end of a sentence that looks like an interrogative question. For example;
Oh heck! How could he have done that!
Put the exclamation mark at the end of sentences, and you should be fine. But that's not always the case. A classic example is when you have a quotation mark as well. There are rules to follow if that's the case.
The exclamation mark should be inserted just before the closing quotation marks if the exclamation applies to those words. E.g.
"There's a creepy animal in there!" yipped Hannah
However, if the whole sentence is being exclaimed, then your exclamation mark should be at the very end of the sentence.
The captain told me the team's good run ended at the seminal "with a three-nil loss"!
Exclamation Marks and Parentheses
When words in parentheses are exclaimed, insert the exclamation mark inside the parentheses containing the words. I.e.
He only got to know what creepy animal it was after peeping through the window (a giant monitor lizard!)
Conversely, the exclamation mark should be placed at the end of a sentence if it is not limited to the words in parentheses. But it's a relatively rare combination to use. Here's an example:
He will take the kids out for fun (today)!
The major concern you might have is arguably when an exclamation mark should not be used. This is important since it's difficult to express your tone in writing without using some sort of style. If I said:
"Clara was surprised at the overwhelming reception she got" in a loud and ecstatic body language, it would be easy for a listener to know whether Clara was embarrassed or astonished. However, an exclamation mark can help clear any doubts by letting the reader understand that Clara was, indeed, happy.
Clara was surprised at the overwhelming reception she got!
But you shouldn't take things to boring levels by using exclamation marks unnecessarily. At best, this will not only make for less effective use but also annoy your readers. And you don't want that. Besides, exclamation marks are only ideal for informal, casual writing and will be a deal breaker in any formal piece.
So, instead of going for an exclamation when expressing your excitement or shock, you may consider a less emphatic vocabulary. E.g.
He played to his strengths and beat all opponents in yesterday's game! Can simply be expressed:
He managed to beat all opponents yesterday after exploiting his strengths.