Let’s start by comparing a couple of sentences. They are exactly same, except for the punctuation mark at the end.
Everything in the store is on sale.
Everything in the store is on sale!
If you were the owner of the store, you would most likely use the second sentence in your advertising campaign. It would generate more excitement, simply because of the exclamation point at the end.
An exclamation point, also known as an exclamation mark, is a punctuation mark that is used at the end of sentences. It indicates strong feelings, such as excitement, anticipation, happiness, or even negative feelings like exasperation and anger. An exclamation point can also be used for emphasis, or to draw your attention to a certain situation.
We are going to look at some contexts where exclamation points are normally used, as well as some situations where you will probably want to avoid them.
Are you making a major announcement? Are you congratulating a colleague on a job well done? Are you wishing someone a Happy Birthday? On the flip side of the coin, are you writing about something that is making you feel angry or upset? Are you writing dialogue for a story where a character is expressing strong emotions?
If you answered “yes” to any of the above, you might want to end your sentence with an exclamation point instead of a period. Here are some examples to make this clearer for you:
Happy Birthday, Javier!
I got an A on my exam!
That’s not right!
We won the game!
We’re closing on the new house today!
That congressman is an idiot!
Congratulations on your promotion!
These drivers need to slow down!
Those busybodies from the Homeowners’ Association are driving me crazy!
My new kitten is coming home today!
Good work, Benjamin!
Do this! Don’t do that!
An imperative sentence is one where somebody is telling others to do (or not do) something. Often, these sentences convey a sense of urgency, so an exclamation point at the end would be appropriate.
Clean your room!
Keep the kids away from the gas tank!
Exit the building immediately!
Stop bothering me!
Turn off that horrible music!
Do not pet that dog!
Do not eat lasagna with your fingers! Use a fork!
If you are writing copy for an advertisement, or if you simply want your followers on social media to notice your posts, some well-placed exclamation points can help you get the job done.
Putting an exclamation point at the end of every sentence would be overkill. Rather, look over the entire advertisement or social media post and then choose one or two sentences that you think will really draw people in.
Order online and receive a free gift!
Buy one, get one free!
Our downtown location is now open for business!
Quantities are limited, so order now!
Incomplete sentences are okay!
If you go back and look at some of the examples in this article, you will see that some of them are not full, complete sentences. This is fine if you are simply expressing a feeling, or if you are writing a line in an advertisement or social media post. Here are some additional examples:
75% off all swimwear!
New and improved!
Special members-only discount!
Most expletives (i.e., swear words) would also fall into this category when they are used alone and not as part of a longer sentence.
Many exclamation points!!!!!!!
If your feelings are really, really strong—or if you want your readers to notice a particular sentence—you can use several exclamation points instead of just one. However, strings of exclamation points should be limited to advertisements, social media posts, text messages, or other informal contexts. (Note the title of this article.)
I won the jackpot!!!!!
We’re having a baby!!!!!!
When should you avoid using exclamation points?
In general, very formal types of writing (especially academic papers and legal documents) have a stiff, unemotional tone. We would rarely use an exclamation point in these contexts.
What about business emails? An occasional exclamation point might be okay, such as in the following example:
Dear Mr. Cho,
In the attachment, please find XYZ Tech’s sales figures for 2022. Overall, we had a strong year, particularly in the fourth quarter. We are especially pleased to announce that our annual revenue has increased by 25 percent!
Please contact me if I can answer any questions for you, or if you need any further assistance.
Note that only one exclamation point is used in the entire email. They aren’t sprinkled them throughout the text the way they are in many advertisements and social media posts. It would not look professional to use many exclamation points in a row.
Exclamation points also don’t work well at the end of very lengthy sentences (which are also more common in formal contexts). If you read over the examples in this article, you will see that even the longest sentences with exclamation points take up less than one line.
If you aren’t sure if you should use an exclamation point or a period at the end of a sentence, click the blue box below. One of our TextRanch editors will take a look at it and give you some feedback.
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