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7.11 The Exclamation Mark, Main purpose

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:

  • Crash! went the filing cabinet.


  • The crash of the filing cabinet was heard far down the hall.

Sometimes the exclamation mark is used to convey a special intonation that the reader would not give the words if they were punctuated normally:

  • And I thought he was joking!

The exclamation mark is also used after forceful requests, wishes, invocations and commands:

  • Would that I could!
  • Follow my white plume!
    —Sir Wilfrid Laurier