Image is a flowchart that answers the question Should I Use an Exclamation Mark? (with a spoiler, The answer is probably no.)
Should I Use an Exclamation Mark?
When deciding whether or not to use an exclamation mark, the first question to ask is: What is the thing you’re exclaiming?
As one moves through the paths on the pictured flowchart, many choices end at one of three explanations:
- Use Words: Words are uniquely capable of conveying emotions and information. Punctuation is not.
- Try Harder: Find something more interesting to write about.
- Go for it: Use an exclamation mark. But use it wisely.
From the initial question, there are three additional paths with the accompanying questions:
- Is it hugely important?
- Is it super exciting?
- Is it an actual emergency?
Starting with the first option; “Is it hugely important?”
The next thing to decide is: Is it absolutely vital to our national interests? If so, then great, words are all you need. See Use Words
If the answer is: “Well it is to me”, then is the thing you wrote an actual exclamation like Hey! Whoa! Oops! or Wow!
If yes, how did you know it was important? Are you psychic?
Your response would be “no, but I win a lot of raffles” See Go for it
If no, then will adding one of those words get you off my back?
The next thought is “Hey buddy, I’m only trying to help”
Then you ask yourself: If you said this out loud, would you shout it?
- Yes. With jazz hands. If you answered “Yes. With jazz hands” then the next question is; are you easily excitable?
- If “Holy cats. YES.” Then consider being honest: is this thing more exciting to you than to your readers? Are you hoping an exclamation mark will MAKE them more excited?
- i. Punctuation doesn’t make people more excited. Exciting information makes them excited. See Try Harder
- If “Maybe.” See Try Harder
- If “Not even a little bit.” See Go for it
- No. that would be weird. If you answered “No. that would be weird.” See Use Words
- If you answered “Probably not.” See Use Words
The second option from the original question; what is the thing your exclaiming, is “Is it super exciting?”
- If Yes; See Use Words
- If Sorta. I’m hoping to GENERATE some excitement about it. That is a horrible reason to use an exclamation mark. See Use Words
- If No; See Try Harder
The third option from the original question; “Is it an actual emergency?”
The next question is “Are you on fire?”
If Yes; you can write, “Hey! I’m on fire”
Seriously? I only get one exclamation mark for being on fire? No, you only get on exclamation mark for saying hey! See Go for it
If No, See Use Words
Or “Is somebody else on fire?”
- If Yes; you can write “Hey! You’re on fire! See Go for it
- If No; well that’s a relief. See Try Harder