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Monday, May 21, 2007

Exclamation Points

The older I get, the less I trust exclamation points. That might sound sort of crazy, but it’s true. Being a writer probably has something to do with it. But something about adding emphasis to a sentence with an exclamation point makes me suspicious.

I’m always wondering—did the writer think I really wouldn’t get his emphasis based on his tone? Or did the writer use the wrong words and then try to cover it up with strong punctuation? Or did the writer use an exclamation point because his argument was weak and he therefore had to do the writer’s equivalent of pounding the pulpit in an attempt to scare his reader into submission?

Exclamation points have their place. They can be used after commands or for true exclamations, but on a number of occasions, I’ve heard editors say that a book shouldn’t contain more than three or four exclamation points throughout the entire manuscript. I’m not so sure I’d put an exact number on it, but the less I see of them when I’m reading, the better.


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