Questions Marks and Exclamation Points

Questions Marks & Exclamation Points

Along with the period, question marks and exclamation points are the basic end of sentence punctuation. While useful in everyday and creative writing, these types of punctuation are more problematic in academic and professional writing.

In general, neither of these symbols should be used. There are exceptions, based on the type of paper you are writing and the course or subject the paper is for. If you are writing a script or other creative piece for an art class, for example, then their use is fine.

Question marks should be used whenever a question is posed in your paper. However, be sure that you want to be using a question in the first place. While a question can be a way to engage with the reader, by getting their attention, this is not something that is typically done in academic writing at high levels. Rhetorical questions—questions with an implied answer used for effect—are also not the most professional to use. Both general and rhetorical questions can be used to great effect in speeches and presentations, however.

Exclamation points, on the other hand, should rarely if ever be used in an academic paper. While they provide an easy way to show emphasis, importance, or surprise, none of these are necessary. Your words and subject should be able to speak for themselves.

The other common use of exclamation points are interjections, which are short phrases (often one or two words) that are used to call attention or show extreme emotion, such as “Hello!” or “Help!” These can be useful in everyday speech, but should not be used in professional writing. (If you are looking for a way to connect a short phrase to a sentence, you can consider using an em dash.)

Note: if you are quoting another source, such as citing a line of dialogue from a book, be sure to include all punctuation, including any question marks or exclamation points. Quotations can be very effective in many types of essays, but be sure to not alter the quotation itself in any way without denoting the change in brackets ( [ ] ).

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