How To Use The Exclamation Point

Exclamation Point
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Maybe not as popular and often used in daily writing as its “siblings” period and question mark, the exclamation point is just as present in our daily lives.

As an international symbol of attention or danger, it is used on all kinds of signs, including traffic signs. If this isn’t a reason to have a closer look at this punctuation mark, then what is.


What The Exclamation Point Is Used For

In casual as well as fictional writing, the exclamation point is used to express different things:

  • surprise
  • emotion
  • commands
  • emphasis

The first two are generally called exclamations (hence the name of the punctuation mark).


It doesn’t really matter if you are writing a dialog in a fictional piece or an e-mail to a friend, using an exclamation point will always convey a certain strong emotion – may it be anger or joy – or surprise. This can be seen in the following examples:

Ah! There you are!
You can't be serious!


With regard to the commanding or ordering tone of the exclamation point, it can easily and quick establish a certain hierarchy. When sending a command that ends in an exclamation point, you convey it’s importance, sure. But on the other hand, it makes you sound rather rude and condescending as well:

Close the window!


Especially on websites and in advertising, exclamation points are used for sentences that should stick with the reader or potential customer. That way, headlines, initial or ending sentences, or other elevated sentences are marked for the reader as bearing special emphasis. Check out the following example:

New & innovative!
This product will exceed all your expectations!


Placement Of The Exclamation Point

An exclamation point denotes the end of a sentence. Hence why it replaces the usage of a period and does not occur together with another punctuation mark at the end of a sentence. In the right context, it can also replace a mid-sentence comma:

I can't believe he's coming over.
I can't believe he's coming over!


Overuse Of The Exclamation Point

It’s the same case with many good things: if you use it too often, it becomes bad.

Too many exclamation points can make you appear overexcited or undisciplined in the best case. In the worst case, it appears as if the writer has no idea what he wants to say. Overusing exclamation points in every sentence puts emphasis on too many items, thus taking away the emphasis from what’s really important.


Thus, it is advised to not use exclamation points in formal or business writing. Even in casual writing, exclamation points should be used sparsely and only when justified.


The Inverted Exclamation Point

In many Romance languages, an inverted version of the known exclamation mark exists. It is used at the beginning of a sentence to mark it as an exclamation sentence right away. In case of mixed sentences that contain a statement as well as an exclamation, the inverted punctuation mark is used at the beginning of the exclamatory phrase, not the whole phrase.

¡Estás loco! "You are crazy!"
Hay un concerto cerca, ¡será increible! "There is a concert nearby, it will be amazing!"


To produce the inverted exclamation point without using a Spanish keyboard or copy & pasting it from the web, all you have to do is press the alt-key and enter the combination 0161 using your number pad: ¡