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7.12 The Exclamation Mark, Miscellaneous

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:

  • Mr. Jones asserted that never in his long and distinguished (!) political career had he taken a bribe.

When exclamations occur in a series they are usually separated by commas:

  • Several honourable members: Hear, hear!

However, two interjections may be combined with no intervening punctuation:

  • Oh no!

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:

  • Another project failure like this, and we are finished.
  • Who knows? Who cares?

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.