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Perfect Your Punctuation: The Exclamation Mark

Updated: Feb 21

A man holding out a small square piece of white paper exclaiming loudly

Introduction - Perfect Your English Punctuation

There is a punctuation mark tucked away with the number 1 in the top left-hand corner of your keyboard.

In this article, I will teach you the name and the use of that punctuation mark.

It’s called the ‘exclamation mark’ and the meaning is in the word: to exclaim, to shout.

Let me tell you a story to help explain it.

Whenever I taught this mark in my English classes in China, I’d begin by writing the word:

'Stop' on the blackboard.

And I’d say it a few times, very quietly.

Then I added an ‘!’ to the end like this:


Then, I shouted it loudly. The students jumped in surprise or fear - or both.

But it served the purpose in a simple way. It was a means to an end.

I might have explained it in a longer, more complicated way.

I would probably have used many difficult words that they would not understand. But I didn’t.

By now, I hope you’ve understood why we use it.

Let me give you another example.

“I don’t want you going to that place again!” her father shouted.

I’ve used an exclamation mark, but I’ve also mentioned that her father “shouted” to emphasise the way in which he said it.

If I’d written this:

“I don’t want you going to that place again” her father shouted.

 It looks ‘wrong’.

Or, if I’d written:

“I don’t want you going to that place again!” her father said.

That looks ‘wrong’ too.

So, it needs both: the exclamation mark as well as the mention that her father was shouting.

It helps with communication.

A simple exclamation mark as well as the word ‘shouted’ or ‘yelled’ aids that communication.

Why don't STOP signs have exclamation marks?

It’s because STOP signs are red, a sign of danger. So, an exclamation mark is not needed.

Final words

There’s not much else to say about the exclamation mark.

Except to say that one should not overdo it.

Never, especially in a formal document, use more than one exclamation mark – like this: stop!!!!!!!

Yes, it conveys the meaning that a stop is critical or urgent, but it’s unnecessary. In informal settings, such as a chat with a friend it would be permissible.


So, there you have it.

All you needed to know about the exclamation mark, and how and when to use it.

Use it wisely, and use it well for perfect English punctuation!

Further Reading

And, if you want to learn about other useful punctuation marks, I urge you to read my other articles to get better English punctuation.

It's really important to learn punctuation marks, so if you want to understand the reasons then I recommend you read the article.

© Apex English Tutoring Dec 2020 - Updated January 2024

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About Me

Hello and welcome!

My name is Michael Finemore and I am the owner-operator of Apex English Tutoring.

As an experienced English Teacher, I'm passionate about helping people turn their 'poor' English into great English, with easy and effective ways to practice.

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