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Exclamation point

In English, the exclamation point (or exclamation mark) has only a few uses. Most often, an exclamation point follows a sentence, phrase, or word to express surprise or provide emphasis—for example:

Facebook Dislike Button Is a Fake—And I Dislike That! [PC World headline]

The rapper-actor was cleared of all charges and declared, “That’s what I’m talking about!” [Gothamist]

If things aren’t going the way you want, speak up! [Jezebel.com]

An exclamation point can be placed in square brackets within a quotation to express the author’s amusement, shock, or surprise at what is quoted. For example, here we are quoting from an article recently posted on the New York Times website:

I’m looking for reader input on whether and when New York Times news reporters should challenge “facts” [!] that are asserted by newsmakers they write about. [New York Times]

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In online writing, writers sometimes use exclamation points to make it more obvious that they’re being sarcastic—for example:

Make sure you donate to Reid’s campaign, as it’s absolutely vital that this Good Democrat wins!  [Salon.com]

Although exclamation points are useful for the above purposes, many writers take a less-is-more approach, preferring to provide emphasis through word choice and sentence structure.

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