The exclamation mark (or exclamation point) is a punctuation mark that looks simple—and it really is—but you should master how and when to use it. Though it is used fewer times than the question mark and full stop, it often appears at the end of a phrase, clause or sentence like them.
This punctuation mark was introduced in the 15th century but was not added to the typewriter keys until the 1970s.
The exclamation mark is used to express tension, surprise, exasperation, shock, anger, humour, sarcasm, joy, etc. It is generally used after the interjection but can appear at other points with other parts of speech.
- What a world!
- The soldiers are here!
- Look at the silly look on his face!
- Wonderful! I’m a champion!
For sarcasm (opposite of what you mean, to abuse or make fun of someone), you might say:
- What a brilliant idea! (when it’s actually stupid)
- I love your colourful hat! (when it’s actually a combination of odd colours)
However, confusion may occur when you see the exclamation mark adding up in repetition or being used with a question mark, but it is allowed in informal writing.
- Hip! Hip!!
- ‘I told him the truth.’
Furthermore, it can be used to show that a writer finds a statement funny or ironic. It is placed in brackets in this context.
- I saw his beautiful girlfriend(!) at the mall.
On the whole, the exclamation mark has created controversies among grammarians: while some say it should be avoided because a good sentence must be able to express whatever feeling the writer is depicting, others believe it is a grammatical symbol that is meant to be used. However, you should avoid it in formal writing unless necessary.