Good morning, it’s Thursday, and that means I’m going to post a throwback from my earlier posts. Essentially a re-post of an old archived post with new notes and observations.
Anything added(except grammar and spelling corrections) are marked in green within the original Post’s text.
The next post I’m going to revisit is Unidentified Fervent Outburst . Originally posted on . The reason I’m revisiting is that I saw someone with a published book who used what seemed like a billion exclamation points and I found it hard to connect with the story because I was distracted..
Unidentified Fervent Outburst!
When I wrote my first draft, everyone that raised their voice or yelled had one of these beauties ending their sentence, ! The exclamation point. I am also a narrative question junkie. I must confess, I used punctuation incorrectly. (By incorrectly I mostly mean too much.) I probably still do from time to time, especially the overused exclamation point.
Why use an exclamation point? What does exclamation mean? Exclaim means to shout out, blurt or say with force. The exclamation point is used to emphasize an outburst of vocal emotion.
So why is it overused? Some older writings popularized it by replacing emotional reactions with ! instead of showing the emotional reaction. Now with social media, it is used as often as a vowel. When we write an email, post, text or whatever when emotionally charged the exclamations multiply like Mogwai in water.
!!! The triple threat !!! These triplets drag along a few more if someone is screaming or whatever. I don’t do this ever. One is more than enough and even then, is it necessary? I already knew about the three punctuation in a row rule from work. !!! ??? is spam material and a horrible way to express feeling in writing. Emails containing them can be flagged by spam filters and firewalls. Also, this type of expression can be viewed as aggressive, rude or as screaming. Also never ever use them on a resume or technical report.
Mixology 101. Mixing the punctuation. Nope, nope and nope. Never !?! ?!? Again, one punctuation is enough!
Inappropriate tone. “I didn’t know!” – What tone of voice is that?
Angry? Snotty? Confused? Desperate? Sad? Remorseful?
I find these all the time in my rough drafts.
Unidentified fervent outbursts.
What do I do about them? Dress them up and show the emotion behind the exclamation point. It’s not always about yelling.
Sasha slammed her fist on the desktop. “I didn’t know!”
“I didn’t know!” Sasha hid her face with her hands.
Sasha covered her mouth with her hand. “I didn’t know!” She couldn’t look away.
The tears fell unchecked as Sasha sat hard on the couch. “I didn’t know!”
No matter what she is yelling. Does she need to be yelling?
Tears fell unchecked as Sasha sat hard on the couch. “I didn’t know.”
Removing the ! changed the tone completely. Now if she wasn’t supposed to yell It’s still not clear.
Tears fell unchecked as Sasha sat hard on the couch. “I didn’t know.” She said from behind her hand.
Okay, so that’s a bit better. What if I wanted to show anger without yelling?
Tears fell unchecked as Sasha sat hard on the couch with a scowl. “I didn’t know.”
Moving on. I will use the “Find” feature to see how many incidences of punctuation I have. ! ? then I’ll highlight them using the “find & replace” feature if I need to weed some out. as I do in “Well colour me silly.”
Rhetorically speaking. Ending rhetorical questions with an exclamation point is tempting and common. Also unnecessary. Rhetorical questions can be ended in periods or question marks. It’s not a real question and I’m not yelling or blurting it and it’s usually obvious enough that the exclamation point is redundant.
My conversations were littered with them.
From my first draft of BiaAtlas before I edited it at all there were:
! x 120
? x 1260 (Yes seriously. I have an addiction to questions in the narrative. Gross.)
As it is right now I have them down to:
! x 86
? x 1073
Clearly, I still need to visit those and make sure they are necessary.
So when do I use them or leave them? Only when it’s important. I use the search/find feature and take a good hard look. Here are some examples of okay use.
Excitement – “Wow that’s amazing!”
Urgent – “You have to go, now!”
Astonished – “I can’t believe you just said that!”
Vehemence – “I hate this!”
Shock – “You didn’t!”
Warning – “Look out!”
And so on. It’s not rocket science. I personally don’t enjoy seeing them in abundance in my writing if they can be avoided I take them out. I was told once that the reader isn’t likely an idiot and if you write well they will know the person is yelling without !!! or saying ‘he yelled’. It is my job to bring the reader in and settle them into the story and let them experience it. Tossing “!” in every time someone talks is annoying. Imagine if we actually spoke that way, we’d be yelling and blurting things constantly and over dramatizing a simple conversation.
For fun in the following two examples, I’m going to highlight in green the things I would highlight during my edits.
Joe slogged down the hall his feet thumping loudly on the floor, but he couldn’t feel them. “I hate this!”
“I can’t believe you drank that much!” Sasha giggled holding him up.
“I know right!” Joe said. “I never do. What will my mother think!”
“Oh no! You had better not go home tonight! Crash at my place I’ll send her a text.”
“I’m gonna puke!!!” Joe said doubling over and vomiting the beer and pizza on the floor.
I feel anxious just reading that and not because it’s tense, I’m not so sure it should be. NOt to mention how awkward that was. Let me try again.
With numb feet, Joe slogged down the hall. “I hate this!”
“I can’t believe you chugged five beers.” Sasha shook her head and giggled at his slurred speech. She held him steady, moving toward the exit quickly.
“I know right! What will my mother think?”
Sasha’s eyes widened at the prospect of dropping him at home. “Crash at my place, I’ll text her to let her know.”
Joe burped and gagged. “I’m gonna puke.”
“Oh no.” Sasha pulled him along faster, outside would be better.
The fresh air did little to help him as he gave his pizza and beer to the sidewalk.
Much better, less ! made for a better conversation. In my opinion. I also showed my affinity for ING and LY. Ugh. At least in my second attempt, I had fewer occurrences. I was okay with Joe’s punctuation because he was actually blurting and raising his voice.
My advice about exclaiming everything with exclamation marks.
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