HOW I LEARNED THE EXCLAMATION POINT IN HIGH SCHOOL. An exclamation point can be like a stage direction. In second year high school English—where I learned all the punctuation and grammar rules I ever needed in six brilliantly taught weeks—one work sheet on punctuation included a sentence something like: “Look out for that live wire”. This was an example where the answer for the correct punctuation at the end of the sentence was supposed to be an exclamation point. My brother Elmer, the contrarian, raised the point that the sentence could be read matter of factly. For example, the listener and the speaker could be long familiar with the hazard so that it is just a reminder.

Our teacher thought for a moment and acknowledged the argument (I told you she was a brilliant teacher).

I was left with the conclusion that an exclamation point, like all punctuation, is a tool available to the writer to provide context.

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