Punctuation For Beginners: All About Question & Exclamation Marks


Welcome to the fourth post in the series: Punctuation For Beginners.

Punctuation is the name for the marks we use in writing. Punctuation marks are tools that have set functions. We use them to give a sentence meaning and rhythm.

(Look out for the punctuation posts every Tuesday. Sign up for our newsletter to get our Daily Writing Links, and you won’t miss out.)

Today, I will be writing about The Question Mark and The Exclamation Mark.

What is a question mark?

A question mark is a punctuation mark (?) used at the end of a sentence to indicate a question.

Question marks:

  1. Replace the full stop at the end of a sentence. Example: Is this where we want to be?
  2. Occur at the end of a direct question. Example: “Who are you?”
  3. Replace the comma if a quoted question ends in mid-sentence. Example: “Do you love me?” he asked.

Tip: Avoid making the common mistake of using question marks with indirect statements. Example: I wondered if she would stay for two weeks? should be: I wondered if she would stay for two weeks.

What is an exclamation mark?

An exclamation mark is a punctuation mark (!) used at the end of a sentence to indicate an exclamation or interjection.

‘In the family of punctuation, where the full stop is daddy and the comma is mummy, and the semicolon quietly practises the piano with crossed hands, the exclamation mark is the big attention-deficit brother who gets overexcited and breaks things and laughs too loudly.’  ~Lynne TrussEats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation

Exclamation marks:

  1. Replace the full stop at the end of a sentence.
  2. Show emotion. Example: “Wow!”
  3. Indicate surprise. Example: “Oh! You startled me.”
  4. Emphasise an ordinary sentence.
  5. Indicate direct speech that is shouted or spoken loudly. Example: “Get out now!”
  6. Can indicate a greeting. Example: Hey!
  7. Show amusement. Example: Included on the list of banned items was ‘crochet hooks’! (via)
  8. Should always be avoided in formal business writing.
  9. Are known as exclamation points in North America.
  10. Replace the comma if a quoted exclamation occurs in mid-sentence. Example: “I hate you!” she said.

Tip: Avoid using exclamation marks unless you are sure you need one. As F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.”

Suggested reading: All You Need To Know About Punctuating And Formatting Dialogue

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 by Amanda Patterson

If you enjoyed this post, read:

  1. Punctuation For Beginners: All About Commas
  2. Punctuation For Beginners: All About Full Stops
  3. Punctuation For Beginners: What Is Punctuation?
  4. Grammar For Beginners: All About Nouns
  5. The Ultimate Grammar Cheat Sheet for Writers (Infographic)