Terminating marks

Question Mark

End direct questions, requiring a response, with a question mark. May I borrow your copy of the book? What did you think of the play?

Exclamation Mark

Add emphasis to the statement by using an exclamation mark. I loved the play! The exclamation mark (!), known informally as a bang or a shriek, is used at the end of a sentence or a short phrase which expresses very strong feeling. Here are some examples:

What a lovely view you have here!

That's fantastic!

Johnny, don't touch that!

Help!

Good heavens!

Aaarrgh!

Examples like these are quite normal in those kinds of writing that try to represent ordinary speech ‹ for example, in novels. But exclamation marks are usually out of place in formal writing. Using them frequently will give your work a breathless, almost childish, quality.An exclamation mark is also usual after an exclamation beginning with what or how:

What fools people can be!

How well Marshall bowled yesterday!

Note that such sentences are exclamations, and not statements. Compare them with statements:

People can be such fools.

Marshall bowled very well yesterday.

You can also use an exclamation mark to show that a statement is very surprising:

After months of careful work, the scientists finally opened the tomb. It was empty!

It is also permissible to use an exclamation mark to draw attention to an interruption:

On the (rare!) occasion when you use a Latin abbreviation, be sure to punctuate it properly.

Otherwise, you should generally avoid using exclamation marks in your formal writing. Don't write things like this:

*Do not use exclamation marks in formal writing!

*In 1848, gold was discovered in California!

Don't use an exclamation mark unless you're certain it's necessary ‹ and never use two or three of them in a row:

*This is a sensational result!!!

This sort of thing is all right in personal letters, but it is completely out of place in formal writing.Summary of exclamation marks:
  • Don't use an exclamation mark unless it's absolutely necessary.
  • Use an exclamation mark after an exclamation, especially after one beginning with what or how.

a Full Stop

End all other sentences with a full stop. Here end the lesson for today.

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