An Introduction to Exclamatory Sentences

Don't Overuse Them!

An exclamatory sentence expresses strong feelings and usually ends with an exclamation point.

ThoughtCo / Ashley Nicole Deleon

In English grammar, an exclamatory sentence is a type of main clause that expresses strong feelings in the form of an exclamation, as opposed to sentences that make a statement (declarative sentences), express commands (imperative sentences), or ask a question (interrogatory sentences). Also called an exclamative or an exclamative clause, an exclamatory sentence usually ends with an exclamation point. With the appropriate intonation, other sentence types—especially declarative sentences—can be used to form exclamations. 

Adjectives in Exclamatory Phrases and Clauses

Exclamatory phrases can sometimes stand on their own as sentences. For example, if someone says, "No way!" or uses an interjection such as, "Brrr!" These sentences don't require a subject and a verb, though to qualify as an exclamatory clause or sentence, a subject and a verb must be present.

Author Randolph Quirk and his colleagues explain how adjectives play a part in creating exclamatory phrases and clauses:

"Adjectives (especially those that can be complement when the subject is eventive, eg: That's excellent!) can be exclamations, with or without an initial wh-element...:​ Excellent! (How) wonderful!...
"Such adjective phrases need not be dependent on any previous linguistic context but may be a comment on some object or activity in the situational context."
From "A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language," Longman, 1985

Interrogative Clauses as Exclamations

In addition to sentences that have the typical declarative subject/verb structure, there are exclamatory sentences that take a positive or negative interrogative structure. For example, examine the sentence structure here: "Oh wow, was that a great concert!" Note that the verb was comes before the subject concert.

If you're having trouble parsing out subjects for this type of sentence, look for the verb first and then find the subject by deciding what subject belongs to the verb. Here, it's concert, as you could put the sentence in a subject/verb order as, "Oh wow, that concert was great!" 

There are exclamatory questions, too, such as, "Isn't this fun!" or "Well, what do you know!" And there are rhetorical questions of surprise, such as "What?!" that end with both a question mark and an exclamation point. 

Avoid Overuse in Your Writing

Exclamative sentences rarely appear in academic writing, except when they're part of quoted material, which would likely be rare in that field. Please be aware that overuse of exclamations and exclamation points in essays, nonfiction articles, or in fiction is a sign of amateurish writing. Use exclamations only when absolutely necessary, such as in a direct quote or dialogue. Even then, edit out what isn't absolutely necessary.

You should never allow exclamation points (and exclamatory sentences) to become a crutch to carry the emotion of a scene. In fiction, the words characters speak and the tension in the scene driven by the narrative should be what expresses the emotion. The author's voice should carry the message in an essay or nonfiction article. Exclamations should be restricted to direct quotes attributed to sources.

A good rule of thumb to follow for any piece of writing is to allow only one exclamation point for every 2,000 words (or more, if possible). Editing them out of progressive drafts will make your overall piece stronger by the time it's finalized.

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "An Introduction to Exclamatory Sentences." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Nordquist, Richard. (2023, April 5). An Introduction to Exclamatory Sentences. Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "An Introduction to Exclamatory Sentences." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 2, 2023).