Avoid the exclamation mark! (audio)

November 19, 2013 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: Home, writing, Writing for the Mass Media.

Deeply into the process of revising the eighth edition of Writing for the Mass Media into the ninth editionpunctblue, I have just composed the following paragraph on exclamation marks:

The exclamation mark is rarely used by the professional writer in a professional setting—even though some people appear to have fallen in love with it. For the most part, the exclamation mark is not necessary if the proper words are used to convey the information or idea. As Henry Fowler writes, “Excessive use of exclamation marks is, like that of italics, one of the things that betray the uneducated or unpracticed writer.” The exclamation mark is one of those things that grows stronger the less you use it. Save it for when you really need it.

That’s probably all I’m going to put into the new edition about that, but here’s what I would like to add:

Set yourself a quota.

  • One single exclamation mark every year (and use it more wisely than to say Merry Christmas!)
  • One double exclamation mark every decade.
  • One triple exclamation mark when you make it to heaven. (You’ll finally have a good reason to use it.)

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