An Admirable Point:

A Brief History of the Exclamation Mark!

“A delightfully sprightly and pun-laden history.”—Kirkus Reviews

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.

PRAISE!!!!!!!!!!!!

“[An] entertaining debut . . . worth shouting about. Illuminating history . . . sharp analysis.” Publishers Weekly

“The history of a much-maligned punctuation mark. As the author notes, it grabs our attention, whether we want it to or not, and it exists in nearly every language….‘Among all glyphs,’ she writes, the bold mark is ‘most available, and most versatile, the most recognisable and most ironic.’ In the end, its job is to ‘attend to admiration’ and ‘point out wonder.’ A delightfully sprightly and pun-laden history.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“Enjoyable mischievous . . . an invitation to shrug off the prescriptions of the language police and reawaken a sense of wonder.”
The Times Literary Supplement (U.K.)

Florence Hazrat is a writer and researcher based in Berlin, working on punctuation in language and culture, and on Renaissance literature. Before she discovered her secret passion for the exclamation point she was a fellow at the University of Sheffield, studying brackets in early modern literature, and at the University of Geneva, working on Shakespeare translations. Florence has been educated at the University of Cambridge and the University of St Andrews where she has received her PhD on refrains in sixteenth-century poetry and drama. She is a BBC New Generation Thinker, making programs about literature for a general audience.