Oh, exclamation point!

Hello! Or should I say, HELLO!!!!!(??!!!) I’m moving today (yes, yet again), which is so exciting, I thought I’d reshare this post about my excitability about punctuation!!! (x a gazillion)

My reality TV of choice is the true crime variety that airs on Investigation Discovery, the channel that features such inimitable classics as BrideKillas, Murder Loves Company, Deadly Dentists and Elder Skelter.  But every once in a while, I’ll tune into non-murdery reality TV. A favorite: My Strange Addiction.

Maybe it’s because I’m fascinated by tales of deep and meaningful relationships with puppets. Maybe it’s because I’m curious about the long-term effects of daily bee stings. Or maybe it’s because I can relate—at least a little—to the compulsions chronicled.

You see, I have my own obsession: exclamation points.

My gateway into this punctuation infatuation was the world of advertising. As a baby copywriter, I was encouraged to use exclamation points—or their street name, exclamation marks—with reckless abandon.

An invitation to join a contest was always “Enter to win!” Sometimes in all caps. Often encapsulated in a starburst graphic.

Same went for introductions of new products, pleas to call or log on now, and that evergreen come-hither: Learn more today!

Once I started using exclamation points, I couldn’t (or more accurately, wouldn’t) stop.

It began to creep into my other writing.

Emails.

Letters to distant aunts.

Fiction.

Soon I had developed a tolerance. One exclamation point would no longer suffice. I began using two, three or four at a time. When that wouldn’t do, I’d go to all caps. Then came the emojis.

Sentences went from staid (and some may say sane) “Can’t wait to see you.” to “Can’t WAIT to see you!!!!!! ❤ ❤ ❤ !!!”

My motives were pure. I wanted to make sure readers understood where I was coming from. I endeavored to ensure that my enthusiasm, happiness, excitement or concern leapt of the page, or at the very least wouldn’t be lost in a medium where neither my face nor voice would be present to set the tone or do the emotional heavy lifting.

The turning point came when the editor of my first book annotated my manuscript with the note, “Please reduce your number of exclamation points.”

“Great!!” I responded. “Like, half? Whatever you recommend is great by me!!!! 🙂 🙂 ”

To which she replied: “More like 95%. Just include a few.”

“In the entire book?!” I inquired. (I would have typed an interrogobang if I knew how.)

“Yes,” she wrote back.

After I got over the fact that nary an exclamation point was included in her instructions, I got to work employing the delete key.

I knew she was right. Too many exclamation points can run the risk of shouting at readers or numbing them like some kind of punctuation aversion therapy.

F. Scott Fitzgerald certainly wasn’t a fan. He said, “Cut out all these exclamation points…An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.”

(Exclamation) point taken.

So I began my journey toward punctuation restraint.

I learned to emote without marks, to let verbs and nouns (and yes, the occasional adjective) draw a scene or set the mood. The shift allowed me to grow as a writer and to broaden my repertoire for emphasis, interjection, dramatic effect and (of course) exclamation.

However………

I also learned that exclamation points are part of who I am. They’re part of my writing voice and how I communicate outside of novel-writing.

Sure, I sometimes use too many. And, yes, I can be a little “cringe” (as my son would say) when I sprinkle them where they really needn’t be.

But I enjoy them. They make me happy. I even like titles that include them, like Jeopardy! Oklahoma! and Airplane!

Just as I allow myself to break grammatical rules as long as I know them, I choose to use—and even overuse—exclamation points in my emails and blog posts. It’s no longer a compulsion. It’s a decision. It’s my way of leaving my mark on the world—or at least my writing. So unless my editor tells me otherwise, I’ll continue to just be me, right down to how I punctuate.

Period.

Or maybe exclamation point.

How about you? Are you pointed with your use of exclamation points? Do you have writing habits some might deem unhealthy? Do you “do you” when you write? Please share!!! (!!) I’ll respond when I’m not toting around boxes.

Photo by Monstera on Pexels.com

41 thoughts on “Oh, exclamation point!

  1. Cynthia, good luck with the move!!!! (See what I did there?)

    I’ve managed to cut back on the exclamation points in my fiction to the point that my editor will add them back. However, I feed my need by using them liberally in my emails, texts, messages, etc.

    And sometimes in my blog comments!!!!!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Best of luck with the move! Hope it’s finished with a minimum of back aches. 🙂 I use exclamation points a lot more on social media and even during my day job than I used to. I mean, after the last few years, it’s worth celebrating being healthy and gainfully employed!! Cheers!

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Thanks, JC!!! I absolutely agree that we should claim joy wherever we can, even if it’s through punctuation!!! Here’s to health, employment, and all of us being (virtually and sometimes in person) together!!!

        Liked by 2 people

    2. Kathy, I don’t know why I was thinking this was Cynthia’s post. Yes, I do. I hadn’t had enough coffee. Anyhow, my good luck wishes on the move are directed to you.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I don’t use a lot of exclamation points. No wait, you better ask my editor!
    I do me when I write,. Not a lot of emotions (it’s a long story). And I write the snarky, brisk, smart a$$ way I talk, no touchy-feely at all. It’s my upbringing of being a marine brat. I need to work on it.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I’ve heard that exclamation points are now so common (and expected) in texts that folks will feel offended or insulted if your text doesn’t end in one. Perhaps we’re all becoming German, where the exclamation mark is required punctuation when using the command form of a verb.

    Good luck with the move, my dear! Hope it goes smoothly and with no back pain!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Ha! Yes!! My children have informed me that ending a text with a period is the equivalent to throwing a drink in someone’s face. (Okay they didn’t say EXACTLY that, but that’s the basic idea.) I think the exclamation point should be de rigueur!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Smooth moving, Kathy! When you’re done, make sure to Celebrate!!!

    I try not to insert lots of exclamation points in my writing, but I feel like I end up using them whenever I’m doing something online or with social media/texting.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. So somebody who shall remain nameless once told me that I use too many exclamation points in my Natalie McMasters stories (and this was after I’d edited the draft and taken about half of them out!)! Me being me, I’d decided that henceforth, I’d use an exclamation point in the title of each book as a branding tool, so we now have Stripper!, Revenge!, Trafficked!, Venom!, Sniper!, and Killers! so far in the series. I’m currently working on the seventh installment, entitled Sister!
    One more thing. Dame Agatha Christie wrote a sentence in her classic novel “And Then There Were None” that was punctuated with four (yes four!!!!) exclamation points!!!! If it was good enough for her… (yes, I like ellipses too!!!!)

    Liked by 3 people

  6. We’re like twinsies, Kathy! Except for that moving thing. How exciting to have a new setting, though! Having lived in my house since 1990, the idea exhausts me, however.

    As for exclams, I don’t use them too much in my writing, but I’m a very upbeat, optimistic (some would just say “noisy”) person so I want everyone to see and feel that when I correspond with them. And if I knew how to interrobang, I would do so with reckless abandon!

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I will only, ONLY use an exclamation point if a line of dialog absolutely requires it. Never in prose. At least in my books. In posts and comments? I LET LOOSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Notice the caps AND exclamation marks.0

    Good luck on the move! Looking forward to the photos.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Kathy, congrats on your big move! I am so excited for you! Wish we could all come help you unpack. (Really.) I used to be a prime offender in the exclam dept., especially when writing mass market YA. (“I can’t believe I got asked to prom!” reads a lot better than “I can’t believe I got asked to prom.”) Also, “Oh my God, there’s a body in the bushes!” conveys alarm and “Oh my God, there’s a body in the bushes” conveys…annoyance, maybe? Exclams forever!!!!!! (Okay: 1 per page max)

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Kathy – I hope your move goes smoothly and easily. Thanks for taking the time to write a fun topic for today.
    I had a boss who called me the ‘Comma Queen’. I believe they serve a necessary purpose so there can’t be too many. She hated them and made me take them out almost all the time (hey, I was writing for the Department of Defense so she ‘might’ have been somewhat justified).
    My latest is now the ‘-‘. I find that I use it as a space filler, in lieu of proper punctuation – I just put it in as the separator of thoughts, particularly in emails or texting. Funny habits that you pick up when professional writing isn’t required any longer.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Kathy, like Ruth I am a serial comma offender. My editors and agent have tried to disabuse me if the habit, but apparently I’m stubborn!
      Having worked for the better part of 20 years I was already well-trained in avoiding exclamation points before I put my hand to fiction. In news writing exclamation marks are essentially editorializing, which is frowned upon. But emails and tweets are a free for all, so you do what gives you joy!!
      Wishing you much happiness in your new digs!

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Kath- Best of luck with the move! 🙂 Oops, sorry, I meant… !!!!!! Ok, now that we have that covered, I’d interrobang my way through life if I could! It’s how I speak. Exclams to me just indicate excitement, so I also overuse them. I’m a bad comma splicer. I feel if I take a pause, a comma belongs there. My 7th-grade Grammar teacher is a friend, and she STILL is trying to work with me on that wee little problem. LOL!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s