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I was reading Frankenstein and I've noticed that the word after the exclamation mark usually isn't capitalised (unless it's a noun). Some of the quotes I've found:

Alas! who is safe, if she be convicted of crime?

and

Alas! to me the idea of an immediate union with my cousin was one of horror and dismay.

and

Great God! what a scene has just taken place!

Why the word after the exclamation mark does not begin with a capital letter?

Has the rule for using exclamation marks changed and when did it change?

  • Also, I do realise that all the quotes contain "Alas" yet it was the only way I could find the exclamation mark easily. I'm sure I've seen quotes without "Alas". – FantasiesAndFailures Dec 9 '15 at 19:07
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    Alas, there is no rule, only the vagaries of publishing and typographic convention. Sometimes there's an exclamation point, sometimes not. Sometimes alas is set off by commas, sometimes inside parentheses, sometimes treated as a "sentence" in its own right, followed by a new sentence, sometimes merely as an exclamation. – TRomano Dec 9 '15 at 21:05
  • I believe you misread my question. It has nothing to do with Alas, I just realised all the quotes contain it yet it doesn't make a difference. I want to know why after the exclamation mark, the following word doesn't start with a capital letter. – FantasiesAndFailures Dec 10 '15 at 7:58
  • It may be author wanted the reader to put more emphasis on the word preceding the exclamation point because the character would have been "speaking" the phrase louder, but the phrase is ultimately part of the same sentence/thought. – Skooba Dec 10 '15 at 13:51
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    @user5460708: I believe you misread my comment. The answer to why the word following alas does or does not begin with an uppercase letter has everything to do with alas (or whatever exclamation is being used). There is no punctuation rule that says how to treat an exclamation. Is it a sentence in its own right, so that the word following would begin a new sentence, which by convention, begins with a capital letter? Is it a parenthetic remark, and thus part of the sentence? The treatment will vary according to whatever conventions are current at the place publishing the work. – TRomano Dec 10 '15 at 14:01
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In these cases the exclamation mark is not being used as terminal punctuation and does not mark the end of the sentence, so there is no need to capitalize the following word. This is an archaic usage. An example from Poe's The Tale-Tell Heart (1843) is given in the Wikipedia article (Frankenstein was written in 1818).

"On the walk, oh! there was a frightful noise."

I'd be interested to hear of it being used this way in modern texts.

  • It is used at the end of quotes and parentheses. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 12 '15 at 8:17
  • Essentially, you followed the rule of whatever punctuation the exclamation replaced. Mid-sentence commas aren't followed by a capital, so the word doesn't change when the punctuation does. Capitalization rules relied on the word location, not the punctuation. – JKreft Jan 15 at 23:47

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