What is an interjection?
An interjection, also known as an exclamation, is a word, phrase, or sound used to convey an emotion such as surprise, excitement, happiness, or anger. Interjections are very common in spoken English, but they appear in written English as well. Capable of standing alone, they are grammatically unrelated to any other part of a sentence.
Primary interjections are interjections that are single words derived not from any other word class, but from sounds. Nonetheless, primary interjections do have widely recognized meaning. Some common primary interjections are:
triumph, sudden understanding
amazement, being impressed
Secondary interjections are interjections derived from words that do belong to other word classes—they may be adjectives, nouns, or entire clauses. Again, they have nothing to do with the grammar of the sentences that come before or after them. Some common secondary interjections are:
- bless you
- good grief
- oh my
- oh my God
- oh well
Curse words (vulgar or offensive words; also called swear words) are also considered interjections when they are not linked grammatically with another part of a sentence.
Interjections are more commonly used in speech; however, we sometimes do need to express them through writing, especially if we are trying to capture dialogue. Usually, the interjection is placed before the sentence that explains the cause of the emotion. For example:
- “Ooh, that’s a beautiful dress.”
- “Brr, it’s freezing in here!”
- “Oh my God! We’ve won!”
- “Wow! What a great achievement!”
As mentioned, interjections can stand alone. Therefore, they can be punctuated with a period, an exclamation point, or a question mark. The punctuation we choose depends on the emotion that we want to convey. However, since interjections are not complete sentences, some writers prefer to attach them to a complete sentence with a comma. Ultimately, it is up to preference.
We use an exclamation point when the emotion we want to convey is very strong and is not a question. For example:
- “Hooray! I got accepted to my top choice university!”
- “Yuck! I hate coconuts!”
- “Congratulations! That was an impressive victory.”
Period or comma
When the expression is weaker, we can use a period or a comma. For example:
- “Well, isn’t that nice?”
- “Oh well, I’m sure we’ll have better luck next time.”
- “Shoot. I really thought we were going to win.”
If the interjection expresses disbelief, uncertainty, or is interrogative, we should use a question mark. For example:
- “Huh? You’re not coming?”
- “Well? Are we going to watch a movie?”
- “What? You don’t like coconuts?”