The exclamation mark is an intensifier. It is used to indicate surprise, urgency, finality and the like. It is most often found after interjections, but also after ellipses, contractions and inversions and after certain onomatopoeic words:
Sometimes the exclamation mark is used to convey a special intonation that the reader would not give the words if they were punctuated normally:
The exclamation mark is also used after forceful requests, wishes, invocations and commands:
An exclamation mark, usually in parentheses (italicized in square brackets in quoted material), is sometimes used to indicate incredulity on the part of the writer. As with the analogous use of the question mark, this is a technique easily overdone:
When exclamations occur in a series they are usually separated by commas:
However, two interjections may be combined with no intervening punctuation:
Where the words themselves suffice to convey the emphasis, or where the sentence or clause is more properly a question, do not use an exclamation mark:
Exclamations are of necessity short. An exclamation mark should never appear at the end of a long sentence unless it is intended to intensify only the last word or words.
The exclamation mark should be used as sparingly as possible. Emphatic wording is usually more effective than emphatic punctuation.
© Travaux publics et Services gouvernementaux Canada, 2013
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