The Exclamation Mark

exclamation pointWhen I teach a lesson about the exclamation point, I prepare for battle. For some writers the !!! is right at the top of their writer’s toolbox. They use it everywhere.

I quote F. Scott Fitzgerald, who said, “Cut out all those exclamation marks. An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own jokes.”

For some writers this mark is like something you shout at the barricades as you fight for freedom or justice. Don’t take away my !!!.

Using this mark is often like telling, when the words themselves showed. “Get off exclamation nomy clean floor,” in my opinion needs no exclamation point. In fact, it’s an insult to the reader’s intelligence. “Look out. Get out of the way.” doesn’t need this mark either. In my own writing, I seldom use it.

When people use a lot of exclamation marks, we tend to ignore them. On Facebook there is a Society Against the Overuse of Exclamation Marks. They talk about  “Exclamatoid Fever.”

Here are the rules for exclamation points, if you want them. In all the examples below, I would not have used an exclamation point. I think they are going out of style, perhaps because of overuse.

  •  Use an exclamation point after a sentence expressing strong feeling. For example, “I can’t believe you did that!”
  • You can also place an exclamation point at the end of a forceful command, such as, “Come here right now!”
  • Place exclamation points at the end of a sentence rather than in the middle. Thus, “Hooray, we won!” rather than, “Hooray! we won.”
  • Place the exclamation point inside quotation marks only if it’s part of the quotation. Otherwise, it goes outside the quotation marks. For example, “She shouted, ‘Help me, please!'”

What is your opinion? Will I see you on the Exclamation Mark picket line? Do you use this mark? Where?

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3 responses to “The Exclamation Mark

  1. Nice to see the rules laid out like that, Ed. In answer to your question, no, I don’t use them much. I’m a person who has to watch that they don’t overuse dashes, don’t know why.

    • Thanks, Leslie. I appreciate the word “anti-excalamationist”
      Yes, I would use an exclamation point if it’s not clear that the person is upset. Most times the writing itself should indicate emphasis. /// She said, “Get off my clean floor.” /// no need for the mark there.
      I’m trying to think of a sentence using the word anti-excalamationist. One that would demand the exclamation point. But everything I can think of, the text would indicate my feeling. So, yes, today I’m a anti-excalamationist

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