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One, two or even three exclamation marks are often added, especially in e-mail, to convey emphasis to phrases such as Thanks!, or No problem!. My problem is that in British English, you could also use the exclamation mark to convey sarcasm such that Thanks! could just as well be interpreted as Thanks a bunch, why on earth did you have to do/say that!. Is this just a simple regional difference? I make a point of suggesting workmates use the exclamation mark with great caution! (emphasis intended)

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  • Could we, for once, not get all tangled up in BrE and AmE when they are simply not relevant?
    – Lambie
    Commented Jan 29, 2023 at 19:16
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    @Lambie They seem pretty darn relevant to me.
    – Graham H.
    Commented Jan 29, 2023 at 20:36
  • In American English, depending on context, Thanks! could also be sarcastic. The exclamation mark denotes emphasis, not tone of voice. Sarcasm is only carried by tone of voice.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jan 29, 2023 at 23:38

6 Answers 6

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Given how bad direct text is at transmitting nuances of expression such as sarcasm, I would definitely have to chalk this up as a regional thing. Certainly in most of the online communities I have participated in, the expression of sarcasm uses a variety of fairly clear indicators:

Oh Noooooooooo, this isn't sarcastic at aaaaaaaaaaall.

Gee. Thanks.

<eyeroll>

I'm so glad you're here! </sarcasm>

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  • the folks I've mentioned it to have no idea that Thanks! might have two interpretations.
    – ukayer
    Commented Feb 9, 2011 at 5:45
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You often see an exclamation mark in parentheses to show that the statement is sarcastic or not the intended real meaning:

  • Thanks a lot (!)
  • How very kind of him to do such a thing (!)
  • Well that's just great then (!)
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I'm not convinced that in British English an exclamation mark does indicate sarcasm, in any case it totally doesn't work on me.

As Hellion hints, text is no good for this kind of thing, especially not if it's 'encoded' in some supposedly regional usage. So I'd either go for something explicit and unmistakable, or leave it out altogether.

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  • I think it can be used to indicate sarcasm, but maybe I'm being over-sensitive. Many of the answers given here suggest better ways to convey sarcasm in informal writing, but now you've got me wondering just how many people do interpret the exclamation mark as a possible indicator of sarcastic intent.
    – ukayer
    Commented Feb 14, 2011 at 8:23
  • @ukayer, I did also wonder about postfixing with '... not'. But I'm not sure whether that is too explicit to count as sarcasm, and I'm not sure how portable it is either. Overstatement is another (probably typically British) form of sarcasm which would be a likely casualty when written.
    – Benjol
    Commented Feb 14, 2011 at 8:30
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American English doesn't typically denote sarcasm with punctuation. "Thanks!" is genuine. But emphasis or additional words can make it sarcastic:

  • Gee, thanks.
  • Thanks a lot.

I've also seen younger generations (born 1990+) use trailing letters to denote additional emotion that is not necessarily sarcastic: "Thanksssssssssssss!" I don't get it.

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Apparently there once was a punctuation for Irony & Sarcasm:

The percontation point (Irony mark ⸮) , a reversed question mark later referred to as a rhetorical question mark, was proposed by Henry Denham in the 1580s and was used at the end of a question that does not require an answer—a rhetorical question. Its use died out in the 17th century.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irony_punctuation

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1. The equivalent in the U.S. would be writing "Thanks a lot."

Adding "a lot" almost ALWAYS conveys sarcasm here.

All the way back in 1959, Charlie Rich wrote a song for Johnny Cash called "Thanks a Lot." It was the very definition of sarcasm, and means exactly what you say Brits mean by "Thanks!" Five years later, "Thanks a Lot" became a Top 5 country hit for Ernest Tubb, who named a whole Top 10 1964 album after the catchphrase.

2. If they use the exclamation point for sarcasm in Britain, then I suppose it's "regional." In my experience, "Thanks!" in an email or text is NEVER intended to be sarcastic in the U.S.

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