On Writing: Let’s Talk Grammar and Punctuation for a While
(Post Number Nine)
The Excitable Exclamation Point!
Today we’re looking at a “quicky” punctuation mark because its uses are quite limited.
Most writers agree that the exclamation point is not in much danger of being used incorrectly. But I would venture to say that its greatest misuse is OVERUSE!!! (Case in point: Never use more than one exclamation point consecutively, no matter how emphatic or dramatic you’re trying to be!!! The second and third exclamation points in a row actually negate the effect or mood you’re trying to portray, so take it easy. Use just one!)
So, when do we use the exclamation point and how often? Well, the obvious use of the exclamation point is to inflect fear, panic, surprise, irony, pain, anger, or a command. To use more than one every several pages of your writing is also OVERUSE! So watch that excitable little mark well! (I’ve already used nine in this blog [ho hum]; are you getting the point?)
Since this mark’s use is limited, we’ll just cite some popular examples for this little guy:
Example One (Fear): “Watch out,” Susie cried. “The tiger got out of his cage!” (Note that the exclamation point is inside the quotation marks.)
Example Two (Panic): Mabel forgot to turn off the stove, and the house is burning down!
Example Three (Surprise): I can’t believe I just won that car!
Example Four (Irony): Bill boarded one plane and his wife boarded another!
Example Five (Pain): Ow!
Example Six (Anger): “Stop kicking the door!” Jane screamed to the top of her lungs at Herman.
Example Seven (A command): Stand up and shut up!
Let’s mention one more example, which is perfectly legal, even though many “English pros” might call it into question, since it IS a question:
Example Eight (At the end of a question that is essentially an exclamation):
A. How could Barry possibly have lifted that!
B. “When will you ever learn!” Carrie’s anger with her puppy was obvious.
So there you have the eight most common uses of the exclamation point. Use it sparingly and wisely, and your writing will have an extra spark that will impress even the editors!
Next time we’ll have a look at quirky quotation marks. These can be quite confusing, especially when you have a quote within a quote, so until next time happy writing!