comma or exclamation mark in dialogue: "Leave me alone," he snapped.


Senior Member
English - Canadian
If I don't want to overdo exclamation points, can I use commas sometimes instead for name tags with adverbs and adjectives of exasperation or shouting? For example:

"No!" he shouted. (Let's say this is on page 1.)

"I do not!" he said exasperatedly (page 10)

"Stop it!" he snapped. (page 18)

"It's all because of you," he screamed. (page 26)

"What I want is the truth," John said exasperatedly. (page 98)

"Leave me alone," he snapped. (page 113)

On a side note, can a rhetorical question in the form of a request end with a comma instead of a question mark? For example:

"Can you please just tell him that he should be the happiest person in the world right now," an exasperated David said.


Source: Me.
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  • Many writers make the mistake of thinking they have to describe the tone of voice or emotion of the speaker, e.g. shouted, exasperatedly, snapped, screamed, exasperatedly (twice in one book? :eek: ... not even once in my book), and snapped again.

    Let your dialogue convey these things for you ... there is very little wrong with "said," even when used repeatedly. Readers expect it and scan right over it, going for the dialogue. You can even leave it out and use raw dialogue as long as the reader knows who is speaking. And you may use exclamation marks as you like, but the fewer the better.

    Yes, to your second question even though you're not supposed to have a second question in a thread.
    And you may use exclamation marks as you like, but the fewer the better.

    Sure, but my question is, is it okay to sometimes use an exclamation mark for those kinds of exclamations and then to use commas at other times so as to not pepper the manuscript with exclamation points (something I agree that one should not do), even if in both ways the speakers snap or yell with the same intensity? I don't want the very rare pedantic reader to think, "Wait a minute: now he's yelling with a comma instead of an exclamation point. Does that mean he's not yelling as angrily or loudly?"

    Use exclamation marks where you must, commas at other times. Do not use a comma where you feel there should be an exclamation mark because your reader is going to take your punctuation at face value.