Exclamation!!!

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I hope that everyone who celebrated a holiday over the past week had a great one! I had a wonderful Christmas! It was quiet but lovely! Hope you all have a Happy New Year!!!

I love using the exclamation mark. It is so useful for getting across my extreme excitement over something when posting on social media sites or commenting on blog posts. Casually, I have even been known to string three of them together one right after the other.  The point being that they should be used casually.

Cut out all those exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own jokes. – F. Scott Fitzgerald

One of the tips I have read from several published and non-published writers is to restrict the use of the exclamation point. Some say restrict it to the point that there are none in your novel others say it is okay if you use just one but make sure it really counts. I have to say I have gone with the first set of advice and have made all my novels completely exclamation free.

The advice is given for two reasons.

1- The use of an exclamation mark can be a sign of amateur or lazy writing. It takes the place of showing writing and leans towards telling writing. For example:

Susie was surprised!

versus

Susie’s eyes widened and her jaw dropped open.

2- A page riddled with exclamation points can be distracting.

I will now admit that one of the best gifts I got this Christmas was my new Kindle. I have not actually had a e-book reader in the past. I have always read any e-books that intrigued me on my computer. So after receiving my Kindle, I decided to purchase a few of those .99 e-books so many of my blog, twitter and facebook writer contacts have written that interested me.

I will not name and shame the writer of one of these such books but was surprised to find it riddled with exclamation marks. I also found them as distracting in this novel as other writers, editors and publishers warned they would be. This book is not a self-published book either. The author has thanked their publisher, beta readers, editor and other supporters very graciously at the end. So it was surprising nearly ten (yes I counted) exclamation marks were found on just one page alone.

I am not an expert writer. I am still learning my craft and making many mistakes along the way. I consider myself an expert reader though. I have been doing it for over 30 years now. This was the first time I have ever encountered so many exclamation points in a published novel.

Writers beware – your overuse of exclamation points can kill the enjoyment of reading your novel for others.

What are your thoughts on this? Have you ever been distracted by the punctuation in a novel?


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About Billie Jo Schinnerer

Born and raised on the edge of the Helderberg Escarpment in eastern New York. Formerly a primary and middle school teacher. Moved to the North West area of England in 2003. Now a mother of three and a wannabe author.
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12 Responses to Exclamation!!!

  1. I have read so much about this. One author that comes to mind (from waaaay back) is Edgar Allen Poe. He used tons of exclamation points. Tons I tell you! He is one of my all time fave writers. But back then, it was just a different style.
    I have absolutely stopped reading something because of poor punctuation (mostly, over usage, of the, comma). I have a few books on my Kindle that are from new authors. They are partially read because I have to do too much of my own work to navigate it. I am not sure if they are self-published, but I suspect they are.
    Thanks for the heads up… I am about to pull my NaNo project out of the drawer this weekend! <~ hee hee.

    • Ah, but Poe’s writing was genius so he is excused for a little over punctuating.

      I am guilty of not using the comma enough and have to add it in during the big edits but I have seen it used way to much as well.

      Good luck dusting off the NaNo novel. I still have to finish writing my first draft it stands at about 55k and is not done yet.

  2. I think puncuation is a matter of style. Someone like Cormac McCarthy thumbs his nose at all traditional punctuation…and wins a Pulitzer for it. Hilary Mantel comes along, with her heavy traditional use of commas and semi-colons…and she too wins a prize (Man Booker Prize, for Wolf Hall). But, I’m with you, Billie. The exclamation mark is distracting.
    I do like to use them in my comments and tweets too. When space is limited they’re so handy.

  3. Sandra says:

    I found this extremely interesting, thanks. As a new writer making my way in the world I have both a free and $0.99 e-book out ther on Amazon. I have always been tempted to pepper my pages with exclamation marks, but resisted. Now I know why. This was and enjoyable and helpful post.

  4. pattisj says:

    I have a “thing” for exclamation points, also. I have cut my usage since learning of their abuse, but it took a little getting used to.

  5. Selena says:

    I am notorious for using them online in comments and such, and didn’t realize it till your post!!! (lol)
    But I must agree. They are very distracting while reading, and I never use them while writing. Awesome post, Billie Jo.

  6. I totally agree with the limiting of exclamation marks on a manuscript/book/anything written. As an editor, I am often floored by how some writers attempt to get an emotion across by using an exclamation mark. Not only is it lazy writing, it’s a misunderstanding of the use of the punctuation. I view the exclamation mark like very potent spice. In any recipe, you only want to use the minutest pinch of this hot spice, or you will burn the taste buds off of everyone who partakes of the spicy dish.

    The same goes for exclamation marks. Too many of them burn the eyeballs out and you have no idea which emotion you, as the reader, are supposed to pay attention to. Personally, I rarely if ever use an exclamation in ordinary text. I go the professional route of describing the motion or, better still, showing it in action.

    However, I will on occasion use it in direct speech. There is a world of difference between: “I hate you, John.” – and – “I hate you, John!” In showing how the speaker is speaking, I feel the exclamaton point is a legitimate tool. Nice post, Billie Jo.

    • Thanks for commenting on this one and giving your opinion. I would probably have never thought much about their use really until I read this novel and kept stumbling over them as I read. It certainly felt as though it was stopping the flow of the reading for me.

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