The excitable, text-speaking youth of today are being told to curb their exclamations by the Government.

New Department for Education instructions to moderators assessing the writing of seven-year-olds has decreed that an exclamation mark will be deemed to have been correctly used only if the child has begun the sentence with "How" or "What" and used "the syntax of an exclamation".

The guidance on marking this summer's National Curriculum key stage 2 grammar assessments stipulates that while "What a lovely day!" and, "How exciting!" remain permissible, "A sentence that ends in an exclamation mark, but which does not have one of the grammatical patterns shown above is not considered to be creditworthy as an exclamation."

It has led to anxiety that in disqualifying modern additions like, "That's well sick!" the new strictures may also deter innocent outbursts like, "Oh crikey!"

Professor Alan Smithers, the director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at the University of Buckingham, who told The Sunday Times:

Grammar is always evolving, especially with the interchange of text messages and prose. To knock children back for experimenting with punctuation seems absurd.

The Department for Education, however, is understood to be keen to avoid suggestions of a backlash against modern children by grumpy ministers and civil servants. It wants to teach the proper rules of grammar, which it believes entails discouraging overuse of exclamation marks.

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