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Style Manual

Exclamation marks

Exclamation marks show users emphasis and convey emotion. Only use them in informal content.

Don’t use exclamation marks in general

Exclamation marks aren’t part of government voice. Don’t use exclamation marks in formal content, such as government reports or briefings.

In general use, exclamation marks can emphasise:

  • statements
  • emotions
  • greetings
  • commands
  • rhetorical questions.
Example

That can’t be true!

Stand at ease!

Use them sparingly in less formal content such as promotional material and social media posts. Be aware that exclamation marks can create a sense of panic or stress.

Like this

Congratulations to our 2020 Australia Day Award recipients!

Happy international mother language day! #ourAPS believes in the importance of cultural and linguistic diversity (CALD) for a sustainable and harmonious Australian society.

Not this

A state of emergency has been declared for all areas of the ACT!

Exclamation marks often appear ‘as themselves’ in instructions to users of government services.

Example

Your password can have any of the following characters: ! @ # $ % ^ & *

Write one exclamation mark: don’t overuse them

Don’t use exclamation marks too often. Exclamation marks can lose their emphasis if you use too many.

At the end of each sentence you want to emphasise, use only one exclamation mark.

Write this

Were you born overseas or have a parent who was? Nearly half of Australians do!

Not this

Were you born overseas or have a parent who was? Nearly half of Australians do!!!

Some people use multiple exclamation marks in social media. This is not suitable for government content.

Release notes

The digital edition has the same advice as the sixth edition about exclamation marks. The only addition is a reminder to use only one exclamation mark instead of several.

The sixth edition had a brief section of exclamation marks in the chapter on sentence punctuation.

The Content Guide recommended against the use of exclamation marks for government content.

About this page

References

Australian Government (n.d.) Help, myGov, accessed 27 February 2020.

Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (12 February 2020) ‘What do these two places have in common? They’re both ’ [Facebook post], Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, accessed 16 May 2020.

Dixon JC and Bolitho B (2005–2019) Course notes and exercises: Editing and proofreading for the workplace, Centre for Continuing Education, Australian National University, Canberra.

Murphy EM with Cadman H (2014) Effective writing: plain English at work, 2nd edition, Lacuna, 2014.

Seely J (2001) Oxford everyday grammar, Oxford Paperback Reference.

Stilman S (2004) Grammatically correct, Writer’s Digest Books, 2004; revised and updated, 2010.

The Australian Public Service (20 February 2020) ‘Happy international mother language day! #ourAPS believes in the importance of …’ [Facebook post], The Australian Public Service, accessed 27 February 2020.

Truss L (2003) Eats, shoots and leaves: the zero tolerance approach to punctuation, Profile Books, London, 2003.

This page was updated Monday 21 September 2020.

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