Learn English – In old books, why is the first letter of the word after the exclamation mark not capitalised


I was reading Frankenstein and I've noticed that the word after the exclamation mark usually isn't capitalised (unless it's a noun). Some of the quotes I've found:

Alas! who is safe, if she be convicted of crime?


Alas! to me the idea of an immediate union with my cousin was one of horror and dismay.


Great God! what a scene has just taken place!

Why the word after the exclamation mark does not begin with a capital letter?

Has the rule for using exclamation marks changed and when did it change?

Best Answer

In these cases the exclamation mark is not being used as terminal punctuation and does not mark the end of the sentence, so there is no need to capitalize the following word. This is an archaic usage. An example from Poe's The Tale-Tell Heart (1843) is given in the Wikipedia article (Frankenstein was written in 1818).

"On the walk, oh! there was a frightful noise."

I'd be interested to hear of it being used this way in modern texts.