1. shaylyn
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    shaylyn Member

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    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by shaylyn, May 9, 2012.

    How do you feel about exclamation points in dialogue?

    I'm writing a snippet where my two MCs are fighting and yelling at each other. Is an exclamation point necessary or does "she yelled", "he shouted" suffice?

    What are your thoughts?
     
  2. bakalove
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    bakalove Member

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    Depending on how you write some people like the exclamation but i wouldn't use it in these kinda situations.

    "I cant stand you!" She says. (in this statement she says kinda dulls down what the ! point was trying to do)
    "I cant stand you!" she yells. (Now your just reiterating the fact that she's yelling but i may be wrong it might be needed)

    For me if i was gonna use id use an exclamation point id use it like this
    "I cant stand you!" (nothing after it because the way i write suggests who's talking in the situation.)

    The way i like to use ! points is in excited situations but even then i dont like to use them.

    "Theres a party tonight! Why didnt you tell me?" the small furry cat says.
     
  3. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Avoid them unless you feel they are absolutely necessary. Normally, if you have 'She yelled/shouted/screamed', you don't need an exclamation mark as well.
     
  4. Ventis
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    Ventis Member

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    Hm... I don't think there's a simple rule for that. It's always on the writer's decision if they are necessary or not.

    e.g. in one of my short stories, a character is shouting:
    "Oh no!" Leliana cried in pure despair. "Everybody, protect Zevran! Don't let him get dirty again!"

    I tried to write it without exclamation marks, but it didn't feel right. It was not only weaker, it made Leliana's reaction less sincere and natural, changed it more into a pose, with ironic undertone. I didn't want that, so I changed it back to exclamation marks. :)
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    My guideline is to minimize the use of them. Not eliminate, juts limit them to where they are really needed.

    My only rule is a purely personal one. Never use more than one exclamation point in the same turn of dialogue.
     
  6. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    I like to pretend I only have a certain number of ! for the whole book and so I have to be careful not to spend them all at once and I don't want to run out before I get to the end of the story so I use them sparingly.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i'd advise alternating '!' with 'shouted/yelled' etc., to avoid overusing either the mark or the tag...
     
  8. phyrlord
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    phyrlord Member

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    I find using the "she/he yelled" drastically takes away from the flow of dialogue. I Personally only like to add action to dialogue when it gives weight to the characters state of mind or current state of physicality when you want to express it.
     
  9. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    Use them sparingly so when you do use them, it'll have a greater chance of achieving the desired effect. :)
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Think of the ! as a silver tipped arrow. It's very effective in certain situations, but you don't want to fire them off willy-nilly (they ain't cheap!).
     
  11. thecoopertempleclause
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    thecoopertempleclause Contributing Member

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    One of the writing books I read had this exact advice. Set yourself a limit to 3 or 4 for an entire novel, then make them really count. I personally never use the "she shouted" tag, I prefer to make the description around the dialogue do the work, you don't just shout while standing still, you strike something, you push, you cry, you shake, your face changes colour. Work out what else your character is doing other than shouting, then convey that too, I think it makes more of an emotional impact that way.
     
  12. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's why I said "unless YOU feel they are absolutely necessary".
    For example, it beats me why you think three are necessary in that line. I'd do fine with just the middle one (since you have 'cried' at the beginning), and maybe I wouldn't even have that. But it's your choice.
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I would have kept only the last one in Ventis' example. I'm assuming Zevran is fatally allergic to dirt, otherwise it would have been a mock despair. In that case, I'd have kept only the second exclamation point.
     
  14. thecoopertempleclause
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    thecoopertempleclause Contributing Member

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    That sentence sounds either very sarcastic, or like the narrator is quietly mocking your character. I think you may want to change it a little.
     
  15. Ventis
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    Ventis Member

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    Well it is in the comedy, so yes, the narrator is quietly mocking the characters. In that story, Zevran takes long baths after every battle, and this happens after one of such baths. :)

    I didn't know about the advice to use only 3 or 4 in a novel... and now that I know it, it goes right to my list of 'Advices To Be Ignored'. :D

    The puncutation marks are hints for the reader how the sentence should be read. Sentences with a full stop have different cadence than sentences with an exclamation mark. The stress is also different, placed on other words. That can influence the meaning. To ignore such tool because someone somewhere came with the rule that the exclamation marks in the stories should be limited - no offense, but I find it silly.

    Of course, there are some books, where you don't need to use and exclamation mark at all. I just finished reading Krauss' novel The Great House and I don't remember seeing one. But that's given by the style of the book (it doesn't use direct speech at all). In other books, if the characters in the book are in the situations where they have to shout then there should be as many as necessary. Even if it means thirty. Or one hundred.

    I just checked one of my favourite books that I'm rereading now for tenth time - Ken Kesey's Sometimes a Great Notion. He probably didn't know the rule, either. There are 13 exclamation marks only in the first ten pages. ^^
     
  16. aimeekath
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    aimeekath Senior Member

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    Exclamation is something to use sparingly, personally I don't like overkill.

    That said, one of my characters in my current project is screaming at her halluciantions in desperation, and I use lots of exclamation there. Perhaps I should review that...
     
  17. Ventis
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    Ventis Member

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    If I may ask, what's the logic behind the advice to use exclamation marks as little as possible? I tried to google it, but all I found is the repetition of the advice. The only explanation I found is that 'using exclamation mark is like shouting'. I agree. That's the use of exclamation mark, yes. And? I miss some crucial point here, it seems. ^^
     
  18. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Because you don't want your book to sound like a used car ad?
     
  19. Ventis
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    Ventis Member

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    I'm sorry, but that's not an argument. That's a generalization, and a rather pretentious one. Sure, they should be used only when necessary.

    What I don't get is the limit 'only 3 or 4 in x number of words' (I saw the range from 25000 to 75000). How can you know in advance there will be only that few situations where it is necessary in a whole novel? Do you decide 'I won't need it' and rewrite any scene where it should be necessary? Or do you simply replace it by a dialogue tag?

    To me, it's all very strange - too limiting and un-creative. I can't see any added value to it and I certainly don't think it's 'better writing'. In many cases, I would argue that it sounds unnatural, when a characters pronounces and exclamation (that he would normally shout, in real life) as a statement.

    Kesey's novel, e.g. has 284 277 words and 1439 exclammation marks. That is one ! in approx 197.5 words. The limit I saw on different web sites - mostly by average authors I've never heard of before, and without any valid explanation is one ! in 6250 words, at some even in 18 750 words. It would seem Kesey is one of the worst writer ever and sounds like a used car ad. Hilarious. Oh well. I hope I'll be as bad as he is, one day. ^^
     
  20. MeganHeld
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    MeganHeld Senior Member

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    I agree with most people here, use at your own choosing. I know at times when I want to separate the type of dialogue by starting off with mentioning "she yelled or he yelled" I will then use an exclamation point if I want to have that person yell in the same conversation. To me, I find dialogue almost fair-game to exclamation points because it's all up to the writer. Imagine the characters in your head when you write the dialogue, that will help too.
     
  21. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sorry, but exclamation marks are rarely necessary. Good writers use them less, I find. Using them too often is like using CAPITAL LETTERS TO GET YOUR POINT ACROSS!
     
  22. Fullmetal Xeno
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    Fullmetal Xeno Protector of Literature Contributor

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    It's mostly not needed, so i would avoid using them. It makes the structure kinda off balanced...
     
  23. KRHolbrook
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    Use them when you think you should have them, but don't overdo it, basically. If someone constantly uses exclamation points, it becomes too much of a distraction, and the readers usually start either looking for them, or concentrate more on them than the actual story. They can also have a more outrageous, comedic affect on characters, if they constantly yell with the exclamation points.

    I have one line in the prologue of my novel that uses an exclamation point, but nothing is yelled or spoken; it's more for emphasis.
     
  24. Ventis
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    Ventis Member

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    You mean like this?

    Sometimes a Great Notion, p. 382/383

    Money by Martin Amis, p. 89 (of course, in the novel there are no *, but I didn't want to offend)

    Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh, p. 172

    All bad authors and poorly written books nobody knows about, right? Wait... No.

    Bad writers do it in a bad way. That makes average writers avoid it. But great writers don't care about it, use it in their own way... and they're great. :D
     
  25. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    ^^ Trainspotting and Money are experimental novels. I've not heard of the other you quote and I won't Google it so I can pretend I have. They are the exceptions which prove the rule. Novice writers should steer clear of such tricks unless they are geniuses, as you may well be.
     

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