Grammar Exclamation Points with Quotation Marks |
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Exclamation Points with Quotation Marks

How do you punctuate if something in quotes ends in a necessary exclamation point or question mark but the sentence continues?

The Chicago Manual of Style offers this example:

Tichnick’s angry reply, “I do not know the man!” took us all by surprise.

Note the comma after reply but no comma after the exclamation point.

If the article or the existing discussions do not address a thought or question you have on the subject, please use the "Comment" box at the bottom of this page.

16 responses to “Exclamation Points with Quotation Marks”

  1. Brandy says:

    Thank you for your newsletters – they are the very best! I forward them to my son!

    Not sure if there is a past issue, but would you please clarify where the punctuation (comma, period) goes in a sentence when the sentence ends with a quote but the quote is not the entire sentence. For example: We went to the store and on our way Johnny said, “I want candy.” Does the punctuation go inside or outside the ending quote. I always thought the punctuation goes inside, but I’ve seen it both ways.

    • Periods and commas always go inside the quotation marks. Question marks, however, follow logic. Let’s change your sentence a little as an example. Can you understand why I was frustrated when Johnny said, “I want some candy”? Since the question is not inside the quotation marks, the question mark goes outside.

      The rules for punctuation with quotation marks are covered both in the hard copy Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation as well as on our website.

  2. Hudi S. says:

    If you could help me, I would appreciate this.
    Which of these two sentences is punctuated correctly and why?
    We could use some common sense for a “change”!
    We could use some common sense for a “change!”

    • It is a bit difficult to answer your question since it appears that you are emphasizing the word change and we don’t know why. In normal circumstances, we would simply write the sentence as We could use some common sense for a change. Note that there is no exclamation mark, no quotation marks.

      If you are trying to convey major emphasis on the entire statement, and the word change carries some special meaning to your audience, then you would write We could use some common sense for a “change”!

      If only the word change carries some special meaning and you are only trying to emphasize that word, then you would write We could use some common sense for a “change!”

  3. Tammie says:

    Is it appropriate to use multiple exclamation points at the end every sentence if it is one continuous quote? or do I just put the exclamation point at the end of the last sentence? For example: Charlize shouted, “I am very frustrated. I need to use a resource book to find the correct answer!” OR Charlize shouted, “I am very frustrated! I need to use a resource book to find the correct answer!”

    • If you are quoting someone else, place the exclamation points exactly as the author wrote them. If you are creating your own sentence, it is up to you to determine where the element of emotion, emphasis, or surprise belongs. There is no rule limiting the number of exclamation points, however, overuse of exclamation points is a sign of undisciplined writing. An exclamation point should not be used unless the author is convinced it is justified. It seems that the exclamation point might be best used after the word frustrated.

  4. Warren Brook says:

    Please settle an argument.
    The sentence reads as follows:
    I will continue to drink from my cup that reads, “Keep Calm and Carry On!”

    I say this sentence needs a period, since the exclamation point is part of the original quote.

    • Our Rule 3 of Periods says, “Question marks and exclamation points replace and eliminate periods at the end of a sentence.” This rule applies even if the ending punctuation mark is within a quote.

  5. ella says:

    If I’m quoting something for an essay, and want to carry on the sentence afterwards, can I?
    eg: is ‘Her heart had been “broken!” the exclamation clearly showing…’
    or ‘Her heart had been “broken!” The exclamation clearly shows…

    • From the information you’ve provided, we’re unsure what you are trying to accomplish. However, we would like to be helpful. As the post implies, continuing a sentence after a quote ending in an exclamation point is acceptable. Also, please see our post Quotations Within Quotations for information on the American rules governing this sort of situation.

  6. Sarah Walker says:

    Is this correct?

    “Hurry up Aunt Beverly! Turn off the light! Hurry up, Aunt Beverly!” I yelled.

    “Turn off the light!” I screamed.

    “Turn off the light, Aunt Beverly! Hurry up! Hurry up right now, Aunt Beverly!” I yelled repeatedly.

    • Your exclamation points and quotation marks are correct; however, you missed one comma in the first sentence. Our Rule 8 of Commas says, “Use commas to set off the name, nickname, term of endearment, or title of a person directly addressed.” Therefore, write “Hurry up, Aunt Beverly!”

  7. Becca says:

    Where do I place the comma after “Run!” in this sentence? Does it go inside the quotation mark or after, or do I omit it?

    My son is quick to smile, loves to “Run!”, build (and destroy) towers, and strategically place all the pots and pans around the kitchen floor.

    Thank you!

    • The presence of “Run!” early among a series of items in the sentence screams for a comma, but it makes for awkward punctuation. We prefer reserving such use of quotation marks to “technical terms, terms used in an unusual way, or other expressions that vary from standard usage” (Rule 8a of Quotation Marks). Your sentence also lacks parallel construction (see Practicing Parallelism), and fixing that in strict compliance with the rules may dampen the sense that you are trying to emphasize: the energetic activity of running among your son’s favorite activities. We recommend recasting the sentence:

      Besides being quick to smile, my son loves to build (and destroy) towers and strategically place all the pots and pans around the kitchen floor. And he especially loves to run!

  8. Lisa says:

    If you are listing items in quotations, and one (or more) of the items ends in an exclamation mark, and the order is important / must be preserved, does the comma go inside or outside of the quotation mark? Or should different punctuation be used altogether?

    For example:
    Listen to the songs “Past!”, “Present!”, and “Future!”
    – or –
    Listen to the songs “Past!,” “Present!,” and “Future!”

    • says:

      As the post states, “…no comma after the exclamation point.” Therefore, write Listen to the songs “Past!” “Present!” and “Future!”

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