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Would this usage of exclamation mark be correct?

I want to — honest! — give you a slap!

Yes, I know, it's a quite bad example, but I wonder if this usage of an exclamation inside a sentence is correct. If not, is there any situation where an exclamation mark would be acceptable in a sentence?

I'll give you another example:

He said he ate a thousand (!) fishes.

Is this correct?

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5 Answers 5

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Exclamation points are generally for ending sentences. I think what you want to convey by putting an exclamation point in the middle of a sentence is emphasis, which is probably more appropriately done with italics, bold, or underline. However, I think both of your examples are acceptable for informal writing, and certainly understandable.

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But in informal writing, or in depiction of speech, an exclamation mark need not end a sentence, and rather is used for emphasis, an interrupting imperative, etc. Using typographical features, such as bold, underline, or italics, is just poor form, in that they clutter the page and are not part of syntax or grammar, which do a perfectly good job of expressing intonation and the like already. The example the OP has given is perfectly fine in informal writing or depiction of speech. In formal writing, exclamation marks would be used rarely, if at all, anyway. – nxx Jan 9 '14 at 0:34

Yes - both examples are common. This is characteristic of informal use, and often seen in works of fiction.

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In general, rules about terminal punctuation, rules prohibiting double punctuation and rules prohibiting multiple consecutive punctuation marks, are relaxing in favor of a logic essentially saying to put exclamation marks and questions marks after the text to which they apply. There is still variation in guidance from style authorities, and certainly in practice.

The most recent edition of the Chicago Manual of Style reflects the change described above.

Come on in (quietly, please!) and take a seat.

Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition

Alex Ramirez (I could have had a stroke!) repeated the whole story.

Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition

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I disagree with the other comments. An exclamation mark is a modified full stop (or period). As such it marks the end of a sentence and cannot appear in the middle of a sentence. In the example given, if you remove the exclamation mark then the word honest does not lose its intensity and the mark is clearly not needed.

Try to keep this in mind: an exclamation mark indicates a verb that is in the imperative, that is an order or exclamation. Shut up! Stop! The mark applies to the verb - it cannot be used to apply emphasis to adjectives or adverbs in that sentence (such as the word honest)

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Yes you can. You can do it both ways. Lots of elementry kids do it. For example: "I said I wanted chocolate ice scream!" screamed Lily Do you see what I mean. So teach your parents!

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