Multiple Exclamation Points

When Punctuation Becomes Overly Excited!!!

multiple exclamation marks
In Punctuation for Now, John McDermott observes that multiple exclamation points "are best left to schoolchildren and those in love for the first time.". (Brand New Images/Getty Images)

Multiple exclamation points  (or marks) are two or more exclamation marks (!!!) following a word or sentence.

In the book Perfect Punctuation (2009), Steven Curtis notes that "the use of multiple exclamation marks (It was big! It was huge!! It was e-nor-mous!!!) should be kept for very informal or comic writing."

Multiple Exclamation Marks in Academic Writing

  • "Academic writing should avoid exclamation marks, exclamation marks in brackets in the middle of a sentence (!) to indicate that the writer is startled or shocked, and multiple exclamation marks (!!!) to indicate that the writer is very shocked or emphasizing something extremely important."
  • "[E]xclamation marks should not be used to indicate emphasis, irony, or humor. In addition, you should avoid using multiple exclamation marks in a row at the end of a sentence."

Ironic Uses of Multiple Exclamation Marks

"There is surely a point after which exclamation marks no longer express friendliness. In this post-literal time, exclamation marks become signs of sarcasm as witty correspondents rebel against their overuse. Hence: 'I loved your last email! OMG did I LOVE it!!!!!!' The point is they didn't. They were being IRONIC."

Punctuation Inflation

"Call this what you will--exclamatory excess, punctuation inflation, the result of the Internet’s limitless expanse--it is everywhere. We have become a nation of promiscuous punctuators. In a paper published in 2006 in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, Carol Waseleski noted that exclamation points 'rarely function as markers of excitability'; instead, they may function as 'markers of friendly interaction.' But when a single point denotes basic human warmth, more points are needed to convey enthusiasm (!!), even more, to convey excitement (!!!), and more still to convey giddiness (Prime Rib Saturday!!!!).

The same holds for question marks and even ellipses: more marks are required to add emotional coloring to words rendered in black and white."

The Lighter Side of Multiple Exclamation Marks

"And all those exclamation marks, you notice? Five? A sure sign of someone who wears his underpants on his head."
(Terry Pratchett, Maskerade)

Sources

  • Julia Hickey, Literacy for QTLS: Achieving the Minimum Core. Routledge, 2013
  • G. Loberger and K. Shoup, Webster's New World English Grammar Handbook, 2nd ed. Wiley, 2009
  • Stuart Jeffries, "The Joy of Exclamation Marks!" The Guardian, April 29, 2009
  • Megan Garber, "Have We Hit Peak Punctuation?" The Atlantic, April 2014
  • Terry Pratchett, Maskerade
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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "Multiple Exclamation Points." ThoughtCo, Jul. 20, 2017, thoughtco.com/multiple-exclamation-points-1691411. Nordquist, Richard. (2017, July 20). Multiple Exclamation Points. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/multiple-exclamation-points-1691411 Nordquist, Richard. "Multiple Exclamation Points." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/multiple-exclamation-points-1691411 (accessed April 23, 2018).