Few punctuation marks elicit quite as much love or hate as the exclamation mark. It’s bubbly and exuberant, an emotional amplifier whose flamboyantly dramatic gesture lets the reader know: here be feelings! Scott Fitzgerald famously stated exclamation marks are like laughing at your own joke; Terry Pratchett had a character say that multiple !!! are a ‘sure sign of a diseased mind’. So what’s the deal with ! ?
Whether you think it’s over-used, or enthusiastically sprinkle your writing with it, ! is inescapable. An Admirable Point recuperates the exclamation mark from its much maligned place at the bottom of the punctuation hierarchy. It explores how ! came about in the first place some six hundred years ago, and uncovers the many ways in which ! has left its mark on art, literature, (pop) culture, and just about any sphere of human activity—from Beowulf to spam emails, ee cummings to neuroscience.