Exclamation marks are like typing in a bold font.
End the sentence with an exclamation mark when the speaker needs to display strong emotion, excitement, or emphasis.
- Don’t do that!
- Don’t hit him!
- That test was nearly impossible!
- Stop that!
- I could never do that again, nor would I want to!
When the words spoken convey strong emotion, excitement, or emphasis, but the sentence itself does not, the exclamation mark goes inside the closing quotation mark.
Whether or not the exclamation is at the end of the sentence, no other punctuation follows it, even when something like a comma would normally be used.
- They don’t ever remember scolding him, “You can’t do that!”
- The game ended when the umpire shouted, “Strike three!”
- Half the crowd roared, “We won!” but the other half filed out silently.
- No comma after “We won!”
- The passenger yelled, “Stop! Now!” just before the car hit the tree.
- No comma after “Now!”
The key is to determine which is the actual exclamation.
- They were so excited when they heard the announcement, “The Dodgers lost”!
- I couldn’t believe it when he told me, “Here’s your shovel”!
- I’ve told you a thousand times, “I don’t like peas”!
- My child spoke her first word today! She said, “Mommy”!
- I can’t believe that he can’t pronounce “aluminum”!
For readability, it is acceptable to put a space between a final single quotation mark and a closing double mark.
- Their mother yelled at them, “Clean up that mess! Right now!”
- She was absolutely terrified when the ghost shouted, “Boo!”
- Even the teacher was shouting, “School’s out!”
- How many times have you heard this: “I’ve told you a thousand times, ‘Turn right here!’ ”
- A space between the closing quotation marks makes the quotation marks more obvious.
- “Quit yelling, ‘Stop!’ ”
- A space separates the single quotation mark from the double.
The interrobang (“interabang”, with only one “r”) can be written
- as a question mark superimposed over an exclamation mark ,
- as a question mark followed by an exclamation mark (?!), or
- the other way around (!?).
It was born in the 1960’s, but because most keyboards do not allow the typeover to combine the two marks, it did not gain wide usage.
The current AP Stylebook does not mention the interrobang.
The 17th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style mentions the interrobang only with the comment that they are making a list and considering it for the next edition. Its absence in the CMOS indicates that it is not appropriate (yet) for formal writing.
- “Can’t you see the fire?! It’s coming right at us!”
- “Will we get out in time?! Can’t you get the car started?!”
- “Did you ever see a cat wearing sunglasses!?”
- “That kitten just jumped over a six-foot fence!?
- “I can’t believe that Ninja veteran went out on the first obstacle!?
Which comes first, the exclamation mark or the question mark depends upon the emotion of the exclamation.