How to use Exclamation Marks and Ellipsis

grammar guru

In writing, we all know how to use a full stop. It’s the end of a complete sentence. But what about when to use an exclamation mark or ellipsis . . .

Going Dotty

The ellipsis, as you can see from above, is a set of three periods or “dots”. Each dot has a single space between it, and it is commonly used to indicate an omission of words or a pause in thought. It marks a longer pause than a dash, and can be used to good effect in dialogue: “I’d like to see you again . . . if you want to, that is.”

The use of ellipsis can also serve as an alternative to “etc.”. For example, when describing similar items on a list: I like equestrian events such as show-jumping, racing, dressage . . .

When a sentence ends with an ellipsis, always use three dots. However, if you finish with a question, then use three dots followed by a question mark: Do you like equestrian events such as show-jumping, racing, dressage . . .?

Making A Point

What about exclamation marks? This type of punctuation is used when signifying surprise, a command or some other form of heightened emotion: Come here this instant! An interjection – the act of uttering exclamations – is often followed by an exclamation. Wow! Oh, man!

Similar to ellipsis usage, don’t overdo exclamation marks. They can be used to good effect in writing if used sparingly, but overuse looks like the writer is trying too hard to make a point. And if you are going to use an exclamation, please only use one.

Working in fiction, I see a lot of writers misusing ellipsis and exclamation marks. And I can safely say, 90% of the time they aren’t required.

Instead, a little description or detail can go a long way in writing and can help set up scenes accordingly.


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Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one aspiring tip to new writers is to “write from your imagination”.