An exclamation, also known as an interjection, is a word, short phrase or sound that shows emotion. Feelings conveyed can consist of disbelief, surprise, anger, pain, pleasure, and so forth. Commonly used words are ow, ouch, yay, wow, hey, what, stop, great and oh. These devices are frequently seen in conversation but are rarely used in formal or academic writing. Already a tool for attention, they are further enhanced through the use of punctuation. In more mild instances, they are separated from the rest of the sentence using a comma.
“Hey, who left the front door open?”
“Stop, you just passed our turnoff.”
“Ow, this barrette is pulling my hair.”
The more powerful interjections are separated from the sentence completely, and the most potent of all are punctuated with an exclamation mark, which is the strongest of all punctuation. Like the use of potent spices in cooking, these devices are sprinkled very sparingly, and overuse will make any piece of writing ridiculous.
“Ouch! You shut my hair in the car door!”
“Stop! The handle is starting to break!”
“Okay, dog, go lie down now. Quit!”
When a question is used as an interjection, a question mark can be used instead of an exclamation mark. Use one or the other but not both, and certainly do not do this: !?!?!?!
“What! You forgot Betty at the grocery store?”