Use the exclamation point after interjections and other expressions that need special emphasis to show strong emotion, such as surprise, or disbelief.
- What a game!
- Look at that tornado!
- Run for your life!
The exclamation point should be used sparingly. If you use it too frequently, it loses the emphasis you wanted it to have. Use strong words to express your emotions or beliefs. Too many exclamation marks can make the writer sound excitable, as if he or she is shouting every sentence. Look at the following example:
- Something must be done about this problem! It is affecting too many people for us to ignore it! If we don’t act now, it may be too late!
Think about the tone of the voice you heard as you read these sentences. This passage is obviously about a serious problem, yet the tone – because of the overuse of the exclamation points – is not serious. Consider the tone of this passage, with different punctuation.
- Something must be done about this problem; it is affecting too many people for us to ignore it. If we don’t act now, it may be too late.
This passage sounds more forceful, and the statements sound more worthy of consideration. To strengthen the statements even more, the writer should use specifics.
The AIDS epidemic continues to grow, especially in Asia and India. By the year 2000, experts predict, the number of AIDS cases will have tripled. Recent education campaigns are raising awareness about the disease in this country and in Europe, but until all the citizens of the world are informed about the contraction of AIDS and the consequences of the disease, there is no hope of eliminating the spread of this epidemic.
After a mild interjection, a comma is better, and after a less forceful exclamation or command a period is more suitable.
- Oh, look at that windshield.
- How quiet the lake was.
Punctuation Within Quotes
Do not use a comma or a period after an exclamation point. Put the exclamation mark inside the quotation marks when it applies only to the quote.
- “Watch out!” she screamed.
- My mother yelled, “It’s snowing!”
Place them on the outside if they don’t.
- Stop singing “Dude Looks Like a Lady”! It’s driving me nuts!
The exclamation point is not part of the song title, so it is placed outside the quotation mark.