Don’t Abuse The Exclamation Mark!

November 17, 2011

in Creative writing

When writing on Facebook or Twitter, or exchanging emails or text messages with friends, you might feel compelled to use exclamation marks at every opportunity, and that’s fine, but when it comes to your serious writing endeavors you must not abuse this poor fellow.

The exclamation mark rule: Only use the exclamation mark to express emphasis or surprise. Never use the exclamation mark in formal writing.

So, for example, in a cover letter, when applying for a job, there is no need for “I have extensive experience in writing articles”! Okay, so this could be considered emphasis, but it is entirely unnecessary because the impact has been made adequately and you aren’t telling a story. An exclamation mark would be appropriate, however, in a story, for example, “I jumped out from behind the bush and shouted, ‘where the hell do you think you’re going!”

Not Everything You Write Requires Emphasis

The way we speak and the way we write are, more often than not, two very different beasts. Some people have a tendency to escalate their voice at the end of each sentence, creating a big emphasis on each sentence. Naturally, people have transferred this to the page, and we now see exclamation mark abuse, everywhere. One key skill you need to master is being able to convey emphasis without needing an exclamation mark. Use the exclamation mark sparingly; overuse leads to a loss of impact, and subsequently a loss of purpose. Use verbs and strategic punctuation to put across a point and describe intense situations. Reading more will help you with master this skill and become a better writer.

Re-read your sentence, and if it doesn’t feel like you need an exclamation mark, then you probably don’t. Also remember: if you don’t use one it isn’t wrong, yet if you do use one and it feels odd then it probably isn’t needed.

 

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Isabella welter May 16, 2012 at 1:17 am

Character poem? What are these??

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