I’m excited to be talking about exclamation points!
I make generous use of them in emails and blog comments, especially when a friend has received good news. I had to learn that they’re to be used sparingly in my stories, though.
Someone likened exclamation points to cayenne pepper. A little can add zing to a pot of chili, but too much can spoil the batch.
What helps me is to remember that an exclamation point is generally used to punctuate an exclamation, which—according to my trusty dictionary—is “a sudden cry or remark, especially expressing surprise, anger, or pain.”
I try to remember that everything in a sentence of dialogue preceded by an exclamation point is being shouted.
Here are some examples of exclamations where an exclamation point is warranted . . .
A frazzled mother reprimanding a toddler pulling the dog’s tail for the umpteenth time: “Stop that this minute!”
An obstinate two-year old refusing to do what his mother wants: “No!”
A woman who just stuck a needle in her finger: “Ow!”
Me when I opened the email saying my Dream Agent wanted to discuss the possibility of representation: “Oh my gosh!”
When I judge unpublished contest entries, I often see an abundance of exclamation points. This can be a tip-off that the work is from a newer writer.
By limiting the number of exclamation points in my stories, I can show the emotion through the words I use rather than relying on exclamation points to tell the reader how surprised a character is.
When we use exclamation points sparingly and only for short, shouted exclamations we can avoid making our writing too spicy.
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When it comes to exclamation points, do your pour them in your stories or sprinkle?
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