The exclamation mark, also sometimes referred to as the exclamation point in American English, is a punctuation mark usually used after an interjection or exclamation to indicate strong feelings or high volume (shouting), or to show emphasis, and often marks the end of a sentence, for example: "Watch out!" Similarly, a bare exclamation mark (with nothing before or after) is often used in warning signs.
Other uses include:
Graphically the exclamation mark is represented as a full stop point with a vertical line above. One theory of its origin is that it is derived from a Latin exclamation of joy (io). The modern graphical representation is believed to have been born in the Middle Ages. Medieval copyists wrote the Latin word io at the end of a sentence to indicate joy. The word io meant "hurray". Over time, the i moved above the o, and the o became smaller, becoming a point.
The exclamation mark was first introduced into English printing in the 15th century to show emphasis, and was called the "sign of admiration or exclamation" or the "note of admiration" until the mid-17th century; admiration referred to its Latin sense of wonderment.
The exclamation mark did not have its own dedicated key on standard manual typewriters before the 1970s. Instead, one typed a period, backspaced, and typed an apostrophe. In the 1950s, secretarial dictation and typesetting manuals in America referred to the mark as "bang", perhaps from comic books where the ! appeared in dialogue balloons to represent a gun being fired, although the nickname probably emerged from letterpress printing. This bang usage is behind the names of the interrobang, an unconventional typographic character, and a shebang line, a feature of Unix computer systems.
Slang and other names for the exclamation mark
In hacker culture, the exclamation mark is called "bang", "shriek", or, in the British slang known as Commonwealth Hackish, "pling". For example, the password communicated in the spoken phrase "Your password is em-nought-pee-aitch-pling-en-three" is
The exclamation mark is common to languages using the Latin alphabet, although usage varies slightly between languages. It has also been adopted in languages written in other scripts, such as Greek, Russian, Arabic, Hebrew, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Devanagari.
A sentence ending in an exclamation mark may represent an exclamation or an interjection (such as "Wow!", "Boo!"), or an imperative ("Stop!"), or may indicate astonishment or surprise: "They were the footprints of a gigantic hound!" Exclamation marks are occasionally placed mid-sentence with a function similar to a comma, for dramatic effect, although this usage is obsolete: "On the walk, oh! there was a frightful noise."
The exclamation mark is sometimes used in conjunction with the question mark. This can be in protest or astonishment ("Out of all places, the squatter-camp?!"); a few writers replace this with a single, nonstandard punctuation mark, the interrobang, which is the combination of a question mark and an exclamation mark.
Cut out all these exclamation points...An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.
Some authors, however, most notably Tom Wolfe and Madison Acampora, are known for unashamedly liberal use of the exclamation mark. In comic books, the very frequent use of exclamation mark is common—see Comics, below.
For information on the use of spaces after an exclamation mark, see the discussion of spacing after a full stop.
Several studies have shown that women use exclamation marks more than men do. One study suggests that, in addition to other uses, exclamation marks may also function as markers of friendly interaction, for example, by making "Hi!" or "Good luck!" seem friendlier than simply "Hi." or "Good luck." (with periods). However, use of exclamation marks in contexts that are not unambiguously positive can be misinterpreted as indicating hostility.
In English writing and often subtitles, a (!) symbol (an exclamation mark within parentheses) implies that a character has made an obviously sarcastic comment e.g.: "Ooh, a sarcasm detector. That's a really useful invention(!)" It also is used to indicate surprise at one's own experience or statement.
In French, next to marking exclamations or indicating astonishment, the exclamation mark is also commonly used to mark orders or requests: Viens ici ! (English: 'Come here!'). A space (petit espace) is used between the last word and the exclamation mark in European French, but not in Canadian French. One can also combine an exclamation mark with a question mark at the end of a sentence where appropriate.
German uses the exclamation mark for several things that English conveys with other punctuation:
- It is used at the end of imperative sentences even when not particularly emphatic: Ruf mich morgen an! ('Call me tomorrow.') A normal full stop, as in English, is fairly common but is considered substandard.
- A related use is on signs that express a command or interdiction: Betreten verboten! (English: 'No trespassing!').
- The exclamation mark may also be used in the salutation line of a letter: Lieber Hans! (English: 'Dear Hans,'). However, the use of a comma is equally correct and is more common.
Cantonese has not historically used exclamation marks. Usage of exclamation marks is common in written Mandarin and in some Yue speaking regions. The Canton and Hong Kong regions, however, generally refused to accept the exclamation mark as it was seen as carrying with it unnecessary and confusing Western connotations; however, an exclamation mark, including in some written representations of colloquy in Cantonese, can be used informally to indicate strong feeling. For example, to represent a response of someone surprised by a gift, one could write: "谢谢!" (xiè xie!, "thanks!").
In Modern Greek, the exclamation mark (Θαυμαστικό, thavmastikó) has been introduced from Latin scripts and is used identically, although without the reluctance seen in English usage. A minor grammatical difference is that, while a series of interjections each employ an exclamation mark (e.g., Ωχ! Αχ!, Ōch! Ach!, 'Oops! Oh!'), an interjection should only be separated from an extended exclamation by a comma (e.g., Ωχ, ξέχασα το μάτι της κουζίνας ανοιχτό!, Ōch, xéchasa to máti tīs kouzínas anoichtó!, 'Oops! I left the stove on.').
In Hungarian, an exclamation mark is put at the end of exclamations, imperative or prohibitive sentences, and sentences expressing a wish (e.g. De szép! - 'How beautiful!', A fűre lépni tilos! - 'Do not step on the grass.', Bárcsak sikerülne a tervem! - 'If only my plan worked out.'). The use of the exclamation mark is also needed when addressing someone and the addressing is a separate sentence. (typically at the beginning of letters, e.g. Kedves Péter! - 'Dear Peter,'). Greetings are also typically terminated with an exclamation mark (e.g. Jó estét! - 'Good evening.').
In Spanish, a sentence or clause ending in an exclamation mark must also begin with an inverted exclamation mark (the same also applies to the question mark): ¿Estás loco? ¡Casi la matas!, 'Are you crazy? You almost killed her!'
As in British English, a bracketed exclamation mark may be used to indicate irony or surprise at a statement: Dice que esta noche no va a salir de fiesta (!), 'He said that he's not going to a party tonight(!).' Such use is not matched by an inverted opening exclamation mark.
In Turkish, an exclamation mark is used after a sentence or phrase for emphasis, and is common following both commands and the addressees of such commands. For example, in the Ordular! İlk hedefiniz Akdenizdir, ileri! ('Armies! Your first target is the Mediterranean') order by Atatürk, ordular ('the armies') constitute the addressee. It is further used in parentheses, (!), after a sentence or phrase to indicate irony or sarcasm: Çok iyi bir iş yaptın (!), 'You've done a very good job – Not!'.
In Limbu, an exclamation mark is used after a Limbu sentence or phrase for emphasis, and is common following both commands and the addressees of such commands. For example, in the Limbu sentence ᤐᤚᤢ᥄ ᤄᤨᤘᤑ ᤂᤥᤆᤌᤙ Mediterranean, ᤚᤦᤛᤅ᥄ — Paṡu! Ghōwapha khōcathaśa Mediterranean, ṡausaṅa! (Armies! Your first target is the Mediterranean!). It is further used in parentheses, (᥄), after a sentence or phrase to indicate irony or sarcasm: ᤖᤥᤂᤌ ᤔᤚᤗ ᤐᤤ ᤊᤇ ᤃᤦᤄ (᥄) — Rōkhatha maṡala pai yancha gaugha (!) (You did a very good job — Not!).
In Khoisan languages, and the International Phonetic Alphabet, the exclamation mark is used as a letter to indicate the postalveolar click sound (represented as q in Zulu orthography). In Unicode, this letter is properly coded as U+01C3 ǃ LATIN LETTER RETROFLEX CLICK and distinguished from the common punctuation symbol U+0021 ! EXCLAMATION MARK to allow software to deal properly with word breaks.
The exclamation mark has sometimes been used as a phonetic symbol to indicate that a consonant is ejective. More commonly this is represented by an apostrophe, or a superscript glottal stop symbol (U+02C0 ˀ MODIFIER LETTER GLOTTAL STOP).
There is a non–standard punctuation mark intended to combine the functions of a question mark and an exclamation mark in English called interrobang, which resembles those marks superimposed over one another (‽) but it is seldom seen outside Unicode documentation - the sequence of "?!" or "!?" is used almost exclusively.
Although not part of dictionary words, exclamation marks appear in some brand names and trade names, including Yum! Brands (parent of fast food chains like Taco Bell and KFC) and Web services Yahoo! and Joomla!. It appears in the titles of stage and screen works, especially comedies and musicals; examples include the game show Jeopardy!, the '60s musical TV show Shindig!; musicals Oklahoma!, Oliver! and Oh! Calcutta!; and movies Airplane! and Moulin Rouge!. Writer Elliot S! Maggin and cartoonist Scott Shaw! include exclamation marks in their names. In the 2016 United States presidential campaign, Republican candidate Jeb Bush used "Jeb!" as his campaign logo.
The English town of Westward Ho!, named after the novel by Charles Kingsley, is the only place name in the United Kingdom that officially contains an exclamation mark. There is a town in Quebec called Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha!, which is spelled with two exclamation marks. The city of Hamilton, Ohio, changed its name to Hamilton! in 1986, but neither the United States Board on Geographic Names nor mapmakers Rand McNally recognised the change. The city of Ostrava, Czech Republic, changed its logotype to Ostrava!!! in 2008.
Exclamation marks are used to emphasize a precautionary statement.
On warning signs, an exclamation mark is often used to draw attention to a warning of danger, hazards, and the unexpected. These signs are common in hazardous environments or on potentially dangerous equipment. A common type of this warning is a yellow triangle with a black exclamation mark, but a white triangle with a red border is common on European road warning signs.
Unicode and HTML
Related forms are encoded:
- U+01C3 ǃ LATIN LETTER RETROFLEX CLICK (HTML
ǃ) (In IPA: alveolar click)
- U+203C ‼ DOUBLE EXCLAMATION MARK (HTML
‼) (for use in vertical text)
- U+2048 ⁈ QUESTION EXCLAMATION MARK (HTML
⁈) (for use in vertical text)
- U+2049 ⁉ EXCLAMATION QUESTION MARK (HTML
⁉) (for use in vertical text)
- U+26A0 ⚠ WARNING SIGN (HTML
⚠) (exclamation mark in triangle)
- U+2755 ❕ WHITE EXCLAMATION MARK ORNAMENT (HTML
❕) (in Unicode lingo, "white" means hollow)
- U+2757 ❗ HEAVY EXCLAMATION MARK SYMBOL (HTML
- U+2762 ❢ HEAVY EXCLAMATION MARK ORNAMENT (HTML
- U+2763 ❣ HEAVY HEART EXCLAMATION MARK ORNAMENT (HTML
- U+A71D ꜝ MODIFIER LETTER RAISED EXCLAMATION MARK (HTML
- U+A71E ꜞ MODIFIER LETTER RAISED INVERTED EXCLAMATION MARK (HTML
- U+A71F ꜟ MODIFIER LETTER LOW INVERTED EXCLAMATION MARK (HTML
- U+FE57 ﹗ SMALL EXCLAMATION MARK (HTML
﹗) (for special applications within CJK text)
- U+FF01 ！ FULLWIDTH EXCLAMATION MARK (HTML
！) (for special applications within CJK text)
- U+1F574 🕴 MAN IN BUSINESS SUIT LEVITATING (HTML
🕴) (a humanized exclamation mark imported from Webdings)
- U+E0021 TAG EXCLAMATION MARK (HTML
Some scripts have their own exclamation mark:
Use in various fields
Mathematics and formal logic
In mathematics, the symbol represents the factorial operation. The expression n! means "the product of the integers from 1 to n". For example, 4! (read four factorial) is 4 × 3 × 2 × 1 = 24. (0! is defined as 1, which is a neutral element in multiplication, not multiplied by anything.) Additionally, it can also represent uniqueness or, if used in front of a number, it can represent a subfactorial.
In linear logic, the exclamation mark denotes one of the modalities that control weakening and contraction.
In computing, the exclamation mark (sometimes called a "bang") corresponds to ASCII character 33 (21 in hexadecimal). It is therefore found in Unicode at U+0021 ! EXCLAMATION MARK. The inverted exclamation mark is found in ISO-8859-1, 9 and 15 at position 161 (A1HEX) and in Unicode at U+00A1 ¡ INVERTED EXCLAMATION MARK.
The name given to "!" by programmers varies according to their background. In the UK the term pling was popular in the earlier days of computing, whilst in the United States, the term shriek was used. It is claimed that these word usages were invented in the US and shriek is from Stanford or MIT; however, shriek for the ! sign is found in the Oxford English Dictionary dating from the 1860s.
Several computer languages use "!" for various meanings, most importantly for logical negation; e.g. A != B means "A is not equal to B", and !A means "the logical negation of A" (also called "not A"). In the UK, BBC BASIC used pling as an indirection operator, equivalent to PEEK and POKE of four bytes at once.
! is used for factorial as in mathematics (but like all APL functions, preceding its argument) and also for the binomial coefficient, , written as
Plings are also used in Acorn RISC OS to denote an application directory: a folder that when double-clicked executes a program file inside called !Run. Other files in the appfolder generally contain resources the application needs to run. The appfolder can be viewed as a normal folder by double-clicking with the shift key held down. In addition, other special resource files such as !Boot (executed the first time the application containing it comes into view of the filer), !Sprites (an icon file containing icon definitions loaded if !Boot cannot be found) and !Help (a text, HTML or other executable file listed in the filer menu for the application) also start with a pling.
Early e-mail systems also used the exclamation mark as a separator character between hostnames for routing information, usually referred to as "bang path" notation.
In the Geek Code version 3, "!" is used before a letter to denote that the geek refuses to participate in the topic at hand. In some cases, it has an alternate meaning, such as G! denoting a geek of no qualifications, !d denoting not wearing any clothes, P! denoting not being allowed to use Perl, and so on. They all share some negative connotations, however.
When computer programs display messages that alert the user, an exclamation mark may be shown alongside it to indicate that the message is important and should be read. This often happens when an error is made, or to obtain user consent for hazardous operations such as deleting data.
In UNIX scripting (typically for UNIX shell or Perl), "!" is usually used after a "#" in the first line of a script, the interpreter directive, to tell the OS what program to use to run the script. The "#!" is usually called a "hash-bang" or shebang. A similar convention for PostScript files calls for the first line to begin with "%!", called "percent-bang".
An exclamation mark starts history expansions in many Unix shells such as bash and tcsh where
!! executes the previous command and
!* refers to all of the arguments from the previous command.
In the ML programming language (including Standard ML and OCaml), "!" is the operator to get the value out of a "reference" data structure.
In the Haskell programming language, "!" is used to express strictness.
In the Scheme, Julia, and Ruby programming languages, "!" is conventionally the suffix for functions and special forms that mutate their input.
In the Swift programming language, a type followed by "!" denotes an "implicitly unwrapped optional", an option type where the compiler does not enforce safe unwrapping. The "!" operator "force unwraps" an option type, causing an error if it is nil.
The exclamation mark can be used in video games to signify that a character is startled or alarmed. In the Metal Gear and Paper Mario series, an exclamation mark appears over enemies' heads when they notice the player.
In massively multiplayer online (MMO) games such as World of Warcraft, an exclamation mark hovering over a character's head indicates that they are offering a quest for the player to complete.
In the 2005 arcade dance simulation game In the Groove 2, there is a song titled "!" (also referred to as "bang") by the artist Onyx.
In recent Internet culture, especially where leet is used, multiple exclamation marks may be affixed with the numeral "1" as in !!!!!!111. The notation originates from a common error: when typing multiple exclamation points quickly, the typist may fail to hold the ⇧ Shift1 combination that produces the exclamation mark on many keyboard layouts. This error, first used intentionally as a joke in the leet linguistic community, is now an accepted form of exclamation in leet and derivative dialects such as Lolspeak. Some utterances include further substitutions, for example "!!!111oneeleven".
In fandom and fanfiction, ! is used to signify a defining quality in a character, usually signifying an alternative interpretation of a character from a canonical work. Examples of this would be "Romantic!Draco" or "Vampire!Harry" from Harry Potter fandom. It is also used to clarify the current persona of a character with multiple identities or appearances, such as to distinguish "Armor!Al" from "Human!Al" in a work based on Fullmetal Alchemist. The origin of this usage is unknown, although it is hypothesized to have originated with certain Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures, for example, "Football Player! Leonardo", "Rockstar! Raphael", and "Breakdancer! Michelangelo".
Some comic books, especially superhero comics of the mid-20th century, routinely use the exclamation point instead of the period, which means the character has just realized something; unlike when the question mark appears instead, which means the character is confused, surprised or they do not know what is happening. This tends to lead to exaggerated speech, in line with the other hyperboles common in comic books. A portion of the motivation, however, was simply that a period might disappear in the printing process used at the time, whereas an exclamation point would likely remain recognizable even if there was a printing glitch. For a short period Stan Lee, as Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics, attempted to curb their overuse by a short-lived ban on exclamation points altogether, which led to an inadvertent lack of ending punctuation on many sentences.
Comic book writer Elliot S! Maggin once accidentally signed his name with an exclamation due to the habit of using them when writing comic scripts; it became his professional name from then on. Similarly, comic artist Scott Shaw! has used the exclamation point after his name throughout his career.
In comic books and comics in general, a large exclamation point is often used near or over a character's head to indicate surprise. A question mark can similarly be used to indicate confusion.
In chess notation "!" denotes a good move, "!!" denotes an excellent move, "?!" denotes a dubious move, and "!?" denotes an interesting, risky move. In some chess variants such as large-board Shogi variants, "!" is used to record pieces capturing by stationary feeding or burning.
In Scrabble, an exclamation mark written after a word is used to indicate its presence in the Official Tournament and Club Word List but its absence from the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, usually because the word has been judged offensive.
Exclamation points or asterisks can be used on scorecards to denote a "great defensive play".
The band !!! (pronounced "Chk Chk Chk") uses exclamation points as its name.
In 2008, the pop-punk band Panic! at the Disco dropped the exclamation point in its name; this became the "most-discussed topic on [fan] message boards around the world". In 2009, the exclamation mark was re-inserted following the band's split.
The band Bomb the Music Industry! utilizes an exclamation mark in its name, as well as several album and song titles and promotional material. Examples include their songs "(Shut) Up The Punx!!!" and the album Adults!!!: Smart!!! Shithammered!!! And Excited by Nothing!!!!!!!.
American musician Pink stylizes her stage name "P!NK", and uses three exclamation points in the subtitle of her 2010 release, Greatest Hits... So Far!!!.
The exclamation mark was included in the title of Dinah Shore's TV series, Dinah! The exclamation mark was later the subject of a bitter argument between Elaine Benes and her boyfriend, Jake Jarmel, in the Seinfeld episode, "The Sniffing Accountant". Elaine got upset with Jake for not putting an exclamation mark at the end of a message about her friend having a baby. Jake took extreme exception to the trivial criticism and broke up with Elaine, putting an exclamation mark after his parting words: "I'm leaving!"
In musicals, an exclamation mark is usually used when the title of the show has the same title of a song within the act. Examples of this are shows like Oklahoma! and Mamma Mia!.
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- U+0021 exclamation point — Decode Unicode