What Are Exclamation Points (!) And How Do You Use Them?

Oh no! This is terrible! Awful! I can’t believe this! Someone else ate the last doughnut! Before we panic, we need to calm down and take a second look at the punctuation used in these sentences. Punctuation is the system of marks and characters we use in writing. The sentences we use to express our fear, terror, and shock during a doughnut crisis all use the same punctuation mark: the exclamation point. Amazing! The exclamation point is an excitable symbol that is perfect when you want to express strong, powerful emotions like surprise, anger, fear, and doughnut mania.

What is an exclamation point?

An exclamation point, also known as an exclamation mark, is a punctuation mark that is used in exclamations or strong commands. It resembles a vertical line with a dot at the bottom (!).

⚡️Examples of an exclamation point in a sentence

Here are some examples of exclamation points used in sentences.

  • Run!
  • Oh, no! It broke!
  • The volcano is erupting!
  • The robots are turning against us!

When do you use an exclamation point?

In general, there are two common uses for the exclamation point.


Declarative sentences are those that end in a period. Declarative sentences are used to neutrally (and calmly) make statements. For example,

  • I like orange juice. 

Exclamations, on the other hand, are sentences that express strong emotions such as fear, anger, shock, or excitement. Rather than a period, exclamations end with an exclamation point. For example,

  • There is a ghost in the house!

Sometimes, the exact same sentence could function as either a declarative sentence or an exclamation. For example,

  • There are snakes in my pants.
  • There are snakes in my pants!

Grammatically, the only difference between the two sentences above is the punctuation mark is used. The exclamation point indicates that the second sentence is intended to express a strong emotion. The speaker of the first sentence doesn’t feel much excitement or concern that there are animals in their clothes. The speaker of the second sentence, on the other hand, is probably surprised or disgusted to have animals in their clothes. The exclamation point is basically a signal to a reader that a sentence is trying to express strong emotion or intensity.

Related to this, exclamation points are also often used to end interjections. Like exclamations, interjections are also often used to express intense emotions:

  • Ouch! I stubbed my toe!
  • Hooray! We won!

Wow! You can learn even more about interjections here.

Strong commands

Like periods, exclamation points are often used at the end of imperative sentences. Imperative sentences are used to give directions, make suggestions, or give commands. As was the case in exclamations, an exclamation point is used instead of a period if the sentence is intended to express urgency or is delivered with strong emotion. For example,

  • Period: Give me the bug spray. (The speaker isn’t feeling any strong emotion or urgency. They may not even intend to use the bug spray.)
  • Exclamation point: Give me the bug spray! (The speaker is full of emotion and is making an urgent request. They may have seen a terrifying insect or are being mobbed by mosquitoes as they speak.)

How to use an exclamation point

It is often advised to use exclamation points sparingly but effectively. Overusing exclamation points is often seen as weakening the purpose of the punctuation mark by creating sentences that appear exaggerated. In formal writing, exclamation points are often saved for especially dramatic or exciting sentences.

Now, let’s look at how to use exclamation points while following the rules of grammar.

Capitalize the word after the exclamation point

Like periods, exclamation points are used to end sentences. They should be placed immediately after the last letter of the last word of a sentence. Typically, the next word immediately after an exclamation point is capitalized:

  • I won the lottery! This is the best day ever!
  • Ow! A bee just stung me.

Using exclamation points with other punctuation marks

Exclamation point: In formal writing, it is considered proper to only end a sentence with a single exclamation point. Even if an exclamation ends with a title that has an exclamation point, you still only need one:

  • I had no idea that your dad was an extra in Airplane!

Period: In general, you should only end a sentence with one punctuation mark. You should choose either a period or an exclamation point, not both. However, if an exclamation ends with an abbreviation, it is considered acceptable to follow a period with an exclamation mark:

  • I don’t see 15 Walnut Ave.! We’re lost!

Question mark: As with a period, a sentence should only end with a single punctuation mark. In formal writing, an excited question typically ends with a question mark or exclamation point, not both. However, people might end an excited question with both a question mark and an exclamation point (or several) in informal writing. For example,

  • Where are the diamonds?! 
  • Who did this!?
  • WHAT?!?!?!

The exception to this general rule is if an exclamation ends with a title that has a question mark. In this case, it is fine to use a question mark and exclamation point together:

  • I can’t believe that she watched every episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark?!

If you’re looking for something unconventional, read about the interrobang and other unusual punctuation marks.

Quotation marks: If the quote is itself an exclamation, the exclamation point goes inside the quotation marks. Otherwise, the exclamation point is typically placed outside of the quotation marks. For example,

  • Inside: The mischievous young boy shouted, “Wolf!
  • Outside: She smiled and calmly said, “I am a vampire”!

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