The key point with exclamation marks is to use them sparingly, otherwise they will lose their impact. There are three main uses:
1. Exclamation marks can be used to indicate an exclaimed sentence: ‘With a gorilla in a hot air balloon! A hot air balloon of all things!’
2. In speech they show that something is shouted or said loudly: ‘Get that gorilla back in its enclosure!’
3. They can also be used to indicate that a statement is intended to be humorous: ‘I couldn’t tell if it was him or the hippo that had made the mess!’
However, if the humour is evident without the exclamation mark, it is often more amusing and stylish to dead pan.
“Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald
The main issue that occurs is over-use. Please don’t use more than one at a time. If you feel that you need to give more emphasis to a sentence than others that already have one exclamation mark, it is likely that the original sentences didn’t require exclamation marks at all. I associate multiple exclamation marks with dodgy advertising; my spam folder is full of exclamation marks.
It is often better when meaning is conveyed through content. Do it with your words, not with your punctuation.
How do you feel about exclamation marks? Do you use them in your writing? Leave me a comment.