Exclamation and Questions Marks
Exclamation marks are used at the end of sentences to express emotion and add emphasis to words and exclamations. Question marks, also used at the end of sentences, are used to express a question. Find out more about exclamation and question marks in the tabs below.
Use an exclamation mark at the end of a sentence to express surprise, extreme emotion, importance, the volume at which something was said, or to add emphasis. Exclamation marks are often used with frequency in emails and other informal writing, however; to be effective in formal writing, the exclamation mark must be used sparingly.
- You’re here already! I thought you were coming tomorrow.
- How awful, you poor thing!
- “No!” he yelled. “What are you doing?”
Use an exclamation mark to close a question that conveys extreme emotion.
- “Why would he do something like that to me!”
- “Where have you been! I’ve been waiting for two hours!”
In informal writing, use an exclamation mark in brackets to express outrage, humour or other emotions, or to emphasize a word within a sentence.
- 44 degrees is really(!) hot.
- Water(!) was on the list of banned liquids.
Use an exclamation mark when mimicking sounds.
- I didn’t sleep a wink last night. All I could hear was the tic! tock! of the clock.
- Dogs go woof! and cats go meow!
Use a question mark at the end of direct questions.
- What's your name? (direct)
- but: I wonder what his name is. (indirect)
Use a question mark when the questions occurs within a sentence. In this case the question mark takes the place of the comma.
- The most important question, what are we having for lunch? was not answered.
- “What’s for lunch?” she wondered.
Use a question mark after question tags.
- You are Connor, aren’t you?
- Janice has been to Spain, hasn’t she?
Use a question mark at the end of a request.
- Could you give me the book, please?
- Can you help me with my homework?
Exclamation marks and question marks should not be followed by other punctuation marks (apart from quotation marks or brackets). However, when the they form part of a proper noun or title they may be followed by a comma – but not a full stop.
- Luke works at Yahoo!
- Luke works at Yahoo!, he likes it a lot.
- Have you read Mark Twain’s famous book Is He Living or Dead?
- Books on the reading list included: Is He Living or Dead?, Moby Dick and Wuthering Heights.
Sometimes an exclamation mark is used before or after a question mark to express extreme emotion in a question. However, this is only done in informal writing.
- How could he do this to me?!
- What’s your problem!?