To Top

    Punctuation Rules for Question Marks, Exclamation Marks, and Interrobangs in Written English

    Punctuation Rules for Question Marks, Exclamation Marks, and Interrobangs in Written English

    Punctuation marks are a convention of written language that help readers and writers more easily understand language in written forms. There are five punctuation rules for using question marks, exclamation marks, and interrobangs in written American English:

    • Question marks to end sentences
    • Question marks in dates and numbers
    • Exclamation marks to end sentences
    • Exclamation marks with emphatic interjections
    • Interrobangs to end sentences

    The following sections explain and provide examples of the five punctuation rules for question marks, exclamation marks, and interrobangs in written English.

    Question Marks to End Sentences

    Question MarkUse a question mark to end a sentence that asks a question. Both interrogative and declaration sentences can ask questions. For example:

    • How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
    • Why did you do that?
    • This book is on the fifth floor?

    Question Marks in Dates and Numbers

    Use a question mark enclosed in parentheses to mark an uncertain date or number. For example:

    • The first settlers arrived in the area in around 1854 (?).
    • William Shakespeare, who was born in 1564 (?), is a prominent writer in the English language.
    • My neighbor lived to be 98 (?) years old.

    Exclamation Marks to End Sentences

    Exclamation MarkUse an exclamation mark to end an imperative or declarative sentence that conveys strong emotion. For example:

    • A hurricane wiped out the entire downtown!
    • Sit down, and shut up!
    • Watch out for that car!

    Exclamation Marks with Emphatic Interjections

    Use an exclamation mark after an emphatic interjection that is not part of the grammatical structure of the sentence. For example:

    • Oh! I didn’t realize you had company.
    • Help! I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up.
    • Oliver! Please be quiet.

    Interrobangs to End Sentences

    InterrobangUse an interrobang to end a sentence that asks a question with excitement or disbelief. An interrobang, which is a question mark followed by an exclamation mark, combines the functions of question exclamation marks. For example:

    • Your new car cost how much?!
    • The baby did what?!
    • Where have you left my car?!

    As a convention of written language, punctuation marks help make writing more understandable for readers and writers by ensuring the clarity of language in written forms. Question marks, exclamation marks, and interrobangs perform five main functions in written American English: question marks to end sentences, questions marks in dates and numbers, exclamation marks to end sentences, exclamation marks with emphatic interjections, and interrobangs to end sentences.


    Faigley, Lester. 2003. The Brief Penguin Handbook. New York: Pearson Longman.
    Gibaldi, Joseph. 2003. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 6th ed. New York: The Modern Language Association of America.

    More in Information

    • John Constable (Landscape Painting, Romanticism): Art Lesson Plan

      John Constable (June 11, 1776 to March 31, 1837, age 60) was an English Romantic landscape painter in the naturalistic tradition....

      Heather JohnsonSeptember 12, 2019
    • Word Matrix: Doodle

      While reading some books about the history of words earlier this year, I came across the word <fopdoodle>, which means “a...

      Heather JohnsonSeptember 10, 2019
    • Word Matrix: D (“set, put”)

      Back at the end of July, I investigated the words <add> and <addition>. I undercovered the base <d>, but I misidentified...

      Heather JohnsonSeptember 3, 2019
    • Word Matrix: Ply (“lay, fold, twist”)

      I recently came across a tweet in a Twitter conversation that argued that studying morphemes is not always helpful. A morpheme...

      Heather JohnsonAugust 20, 2019
    • Word Matrix: Stude

      <stude> “learn, examine, show zeal for” from Old French estudiier, from Medieval Latin studiare, from Latin studium “study, application,” originally “eagerness,”...

      Heather JohnsonJuly 28, 2019