Nicholas Lezard

The art of exclamation marks!

For centuries, grammarians considered it vulgar and warned against using it too freely – but Jane Austen saw the point of it, says Florence Hazrat

An early 20th-century French postcard advises limiting the use of the exclamation mark (Bridgeman Images)

This is a short book, but it carries a punch, as does its subject, the exclamation mark – or shriek, or bang, as it is occasionally and graphically called. I use the word ‘graphically’ advisedly, for the punctuation mark falls into an ambiguous territory overlapping orthography and illustration. I say to myself that I don’t like it, but I do on occasion.

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