Saturday, 18 August 2012

Another moan about exclamation marks

We've recently received postcards from grandchildren, all full of exclamation marks, and yet again, I WISH kids were taught in school how to use these poor, overworked punctuation marks.

I've posted about them before, but their over-use is such a shame. In "funny" greetings cards, they ruin any humour, and anywhere else, you only ever need ONE! (This was an exclamation.) They seem to proliferate in Christmas round robins ("we've moved house three times this year!!" "Jenny failed her A levels!!!" "I'm leaving Quentin after sixty-three years of marriage!!!!")

Is this a new thing? I recently saw a post by someone who wrote that he had a shelf full of books on how to write, and there were almost as many exclamation marks as there were words. I love punctuation, especially the semi-colon (another story). None of it is particularly complicated. So why is the poor exclamation mark so badly abused?

PS I do think it's fine to add them in comments boxes, as in "thank you for the comment!" because they add meaning. Which is, of course, what they are for.

(End of grumble)

25 comments:

  1. I agree with your grumble! I work part time as a teaching assistant and we try to drum it into the kids that they are for actual exclamations in dialogue or for dramatic effect with onomatopoeia etc, but those little sticks with a dot keep on sneaking in!

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  2. I am still guilty of using too many exclamation marks and sometimes when I read through things I wrote years ago, I cringe. I am trying very very hard not to add an exclamation mark... phew, did it! Oops x

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    1. Well tried, Teresa! ( that's an exclamation, of course)

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  3. As a kid I used loads of them in letters and on postcards. Now I tend to litter blog posts and emails with them and still overuse them in letters. I use them very sparingly in fiction writing though.

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    1. Maybe it's a kid thing, and you're still very young Patsy...

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  4. Phew - I was just thinking how often I add an exclamation mark in a comment box!

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    1. I think it's fine in comment boxes. Otherwise it looks a bit too serious...?

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  5. I couldn't agree more. A popular magazine entitled "Woman's World" uses so many exclamation points, it puts my teeth on edge. It's like reading a teenage girl's diary. The material in the magazine is interesting... sweet... informative... but EVERYTHING is freckled with those doggone exclamation points.

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  6. I think Susan has hit the nail on the head - they often read like teenage writing. Maybe we outgrow them to some extent eventually - at least that's one hope!

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    1. I hope so, Rosemary. Otherwise I'll have to have a stern word with the grandchildren! ( that was an exclamation, too)

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  7. Oh dear!!! I love the exclamation mark!!! But not in my novels!!! And not as much as I love the quirky and useful little ; !!!!

    Judy, South Africa!!!!

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  8. I love exclamation marks too!!!

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    1. Virginia, ditto (see above). But it's great to see you.

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  9. I do agree. And I just love Uncle Quentin and the sixty-three years of marriage. I feel inspired to write a story about him.
    And I love the semi-colon too. Whenever I use it, I feel a thrill and spend a minute just looking at it.

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    1. Joanna, Unvle Quentin's all yours. Good luck!

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  10. I hate the little blighters. They are called Exclamation marks for a reason. They are supposed to go after an exclamation. Help! Not after a long sentence. I know some magazines use them so I tend to write the story and then add them in random places afterwards.

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  11. Exactly, Lynne. What a very sensible woman you are.

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  12. I wondered why I didn't leave a comment when I first read this and then I realised: ARADD. I decided to make a not of this post for when I do my post on the use of our language. Then I got sidetracked and never came back to it. Silly me. Anyway I have to say that since your original rant I've cut down on the use of !s quite considerably. Never say that no one takes any notice of you Frances. Apart from Titch of course.

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    1. Why do I not proof read before I post? I obviously do note or that not wouldn't have remained there.

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    2. Never mind, GB. I understood perfectly! (That was an exclamation. Oh dear. I'm going to have to be awfully careful now...)

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  13. I tend to use ... too much ...

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  14. Never mind. Just try to do better! (That was an exclamation, to soften the blow...)

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