Using any punctuation mark must be done with extra care. That is, overusing or underusing such a tool can make or break written outputs.
One of the trickiest combinations of punctuation marks is the use of exclamation points and commas together.
Whether we should use a comma after a punctuation mark is a question worth answering in utmost detail – as many people are quite confused about this very issue.
Today, we’ll discuss this topic in more detail below.
Should we use a comma after an exclamation point?
A comma is necessary after an exclamation point only when the exclamation point is used as a natural part of a proper noun, such as song titles, band names, and book titles. However, a quoted speech ending with an exclamation mark midsentence should not come with an after-comma.
Comma usage after an exclamation point
Deciding whether or not to place a comma after an exclamation point needs some decent amount of consideration from the surface.
However, in reality, there are only a few rules that guide the mandatory comma placement after an exclamation point or mark.
The main equation here is to remember that a comma should only come after an exclamation point if and when the exclamation point is naturally a part of the word or phrase.
When the exclamation point is used as a terminal mark of a clause, phrase, or word, then no comma should be used after it.
Word or phrase that normally ends with an exclamation point
Using a necessary comma after an exclamation point is only possible when a proper noun word or phrase typically ends with an exclamation mark.
On top of that, the grammar and style of the sentence where the proper noun is used also matter in making comma decisions.
Some words and phrases deliberately end with an exclamation point, and this would be our guiding light in understanding most of the content in today’s post.
For example, band names like “WHAM!” and “Oh No! Oh My!” normally come with an exclamation point at the end.
Therefore, regular comma placement rules related to sentence structure and style apply when making use of such words in writing.
Even company names like “Yahoo!,” song albums or titles like “Slay!,” or even book titles like “Horton Hears a Who!” should follow the usual comma placement conventions.
It takes a man to know all the comma rules that exist in English. So, it might be wiser to refer to our comma cheat sheet instead to make things a bit easier.
Now, when does a comma come after a word or phrase that normally ends with an exclamation point? What are the grammar and style-based rules that govern this placement?
Let us go over each of them below.
Word or phrase with an exclamation point in series
When words or phrases that normally end with exclamation points are listed in series, it is natural to see commas as separators.
The tricky part here comes with the comma before “and” in the list of items. The same goes with the conjunction “or” when it is used in a list.
The main idea to bear in mind here is to make sure that readability and meaningfulness go hand in hand when deciding whether to use a comma before “and” or “or.”
Here’s an example where two necessary commas come after band names that end with an exclamation point in a serial list:
Wham!, Oh No! Oh My!, and Avanti! are having a back-to-back concert next month.
Clearly enough, no comma should come after “Avanti!” in the example above because of how it is positioned in the list.
In general, while the comma before the conjunction and the last item in the list is optional, no comma should be placed after the final item in the list.
Word or phrase with an exclamation point in a reversed complex sentence
A complex sentence is made up of at least one independent and one dependent clause linked by any subordinating conjunction somewhere within the sentence.
A complex sentence can be written in two ways – the regular and the reversed sentence structure.
When the independent clause comes before the dependent clause, which means the conjunction comes mid-sentence, the sentence takes a regular structure.
When the dependent clause comes before the independent clause, which means the conjunction is placed at the beginning of the sentence, the sentence takes a reversed structure.
A comma before a subordinate or dependent clause only becomes necessary when it introduces a piece of nonessential information rather than something grammatically crucial or restricted.
What this suggests is that no comma should be used in a regular complex sentence that makes use of a subordinating conjunction midway.
However, a comma should be used before the independent clause when it is placed at the latter part of the sentence, which also means that the dependent clause comes before it.
To make this explanation clearer, here’s an example of a mandatory comma placement after an expression that ends with an exclamation point in a reversed complex sentence.
Before Jerry Yang founded Yahoo!, he had barely spoken English.
As you may figure, the sentence structure of the example above dictates the mandatory comma placement, and hence, a grammar-based rule.
Word or phrase with an exclamation point in a compound sentence
Another condition that guides necessary comma placement after any expression that ends with an exclamation point is when it is used in a compound sentence.
A compound sentence is made up of two independent clauses connected with a coordinating conjunction somewhere mid-sentence.
Coordinating conjunctions are also mnemonically known as the FANBOYS, which stands for “for,” “and,” “nor,” “but,” “or,” “yet,” and “so.”
The rules on comma usage with FANBOYS are pretty straightforward, so you might want to check them out during your free time for knowledge extension.
A compound sentence is separated by a comma. The comma is placed right before the coordinating conjunction halfway through the sentence.
This simply means that a necessary post-comma should be used after an expression ending with an exclamation point if it comes before the coordinating conjunction.
To see this explanation more clearly, here’s an example:
Her go-to karaoke song is Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go by WHAM!, and she always sings it with pride.
The sentence structure above dictates the comma placement after the exclamation point, thereby suggesting that the rule applies to other expressions as well.
Word or phrase with an exclamation point at the beginning of a sentence
Any proper noun used as a subject that is followed by a nonessential appositive phrase comes with a comma afterward.
This only means that a comma should also come after a word or phrase ending with an exclamation point when used this way.
Nonessential appositive phrases serve as additional descriptors to the subject used for creativity reasons, hence a rhetorical device.
A pair of commas need to separate appositive phrases to make a clear distinction that they are only added due to persuasive writing reasons.
Creepy Carrots!, my younger brother’s favorite book, was written by Aaron Reynolds.
Remember that any piece of information added in a sentence for stylistic rather than grammatical reasons must always be separated by commas.
Thus, this rule also applies to any word naturally ending with another punctuation mark or even words that do not come with a punctuation mark at all.
Word or phrase with an exclamation point in the middle of a sentence
The same goes for any expression ending with an exclamation point that comes in the middle of a sentence as a parenthetical device.
When the expression with an exclamation point is used as the last word of a parenthetical interruption midsentence, a post-comma is also mandatory.
Again, parenthetical elements are nonessential parts of a sentence; a sentence can grammatically function without them, albeit less creatively.
Horror fiction literature books for children, such as R. L. Stine’s Say Cheese and Die!, are important in honing creativity.
As you can see, the parenthetical information “such as R. L. Stine’s Say Cheese and Die!” is only added to make the idea richer and more specific.
In reality, though, the sentence can still fully make sense without it, thereby making it a removable and grammatically nonessential stylistic device.
Word or phrase with an exclamation before a direct address
Another condition that guides the necessary comma placement after an expression with an exclamation point is its usage before a direct address or vocative expression.
A direct address or vocative expression is a name used to directly refer to a receiver of a message, which is often a person’s name or term of endearment.
A comma before a vocative expression is recommended in most formal writing scenarios to avoid any ambiguity that may lead to misinterpretation.
Although we can be a little more lenient in casual writing, the observance of correct comma usage before or after a direct address is still the best way to go.
As much as possible, observe proper comma placement before any name used as a direct receiver of a message in the world of writing.
Josh: What’s your favorite song from Van Halen?
Blake: I love Everybody Wants Some!!, Josh.
The song title “Everybody Wants Some!!” officially comes with two exclamation points at the end, so an exception needs to be made here.
In ordinary writing cases, we normally avoid overusing exclamation points because they could be visually disturbing to readers.
Word or phrase with an exclamation in a quote
Last but not least, a comma is also necessary after a word or phrase naturally ending with an exclamation point when it appears in a quoted speech.
These words would normally take the same comma rules applicable to ordinary words without punctuation marks at the end.
The comma serves as a separator between the direct or quoted speech and the attribution – the information suggesting the reference or source of the message.
A comma is needed after the proper noun ending with an exclamation point used at the end of the quoted speech which is followed by an attribution.
“The 2017 movie Mother!,” Vicky explained, “is disturbing yet thought-provoking.”
Similarly, a comma is also necessary when the proper noun ending with an exclamation point comes at the end of the attribution phrase and is followed by another quoted speech.
As you can see, the comma placement in the two examples above is necessary because of the punctuation requirements for writing quoted speeches.
Things, however, change when the exclamation point is used as a terminal punctuation mark that suggests command or strong emotion.
No comma usage after an exclamation point used as a terminal mark
An exclamation mark is a terminal punctuation mark like the period or full stop, and hence, it is most likely found at the end of the sentence.
Because of this, it is generally rare to find a comma after an exclamation point unless it is used as a natural part of a proper noun.
No comma after an exclamation point in a quote in the middle of a sentence
When used as a terminal punctuation mark in a quoted speech, using a comma after the direct message ending with an exclamation point is incorrect.
In other words, there is no need for a comma after an exclamation mark when you see it within quotation marks as a terminal or closing punctuation mark.
Incorrect: “How can I ever repay you for what you’ve done!,” Anna sincerely said to Paul.
Needless to say, it would also be incorrect to use a period after an exclamation point used in the same manner above.
Frequently Asked Questions on “Comma After an Exclamation Point (Exclamation Mark)”
Do you put a comma after an exclamation mark in a quote?
A comma should not be used after an exclamation mark that ends a quoted speech somewhere midsentence. This means that the attribution or reference to the source of information must not be preceded with a comma when the quoted remark before it ends with an exclamation point: “Alas!” said Ruth.
Why should we avoid exclamation marks?
In general, exclamation marks have to be avoided in writing because their excessive use can mislead readers’ interpretation. For example, a simple command using an exclamation mark instead of a period can make it sound too demanding or even threatening, especially in business email writing.
When do we use an exclamation mark in email?
Exclamation marks may be used in emails suggesting positive messages like birthday greetings, anniversary wishes, welcome messages, and parting messages of success and goodwill.
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