1. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    How Do You Use the Exclamaton Mark!

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Cacian, Jan 6, 2012.

    I often wonder about the EXCLAMATION mark and wether I am using correctly.

    Do you use it to signal a character is talking/shouting?
    or
    Do you use it to signal YOU the writer are tring to make a point?
     
  2. CH878
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    CH878 Active Member

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    In short, as little as possible. To me, it smacks of laziness and over dramatization. I think that an author should be able to show emotion through his/her choice of words rather than resorting to an exclamation mark.

    If I do use it, then usually only in dialogue. Certainly, I would never use it in third person narrative, perhaps in first person, rarely.
     
  3. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Use them very sparingly.

    Do not use an exclamation unless you would shout the statement in question. In general, such exclamation should be determined by context and/or word choice rather than by unnecessary or overused punctuation.
     
  4. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    do you mean something like this:

    He talked loudly and said he was leaving
    or
    He said : ''I am leaving'' !!

    In other words in order to use a question or an exclamation mark you have to have DIALOGUE.
     
  5. CH878
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    CH878 Active Member

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    I think it is acceptable to use an exclamation mark even if the utterance isn't shouted, it can be to show other things, such as sarcasm of despair etc.
     
  6. AmsterdamAssassin
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    AmsterdamAssassin Contributing Member

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    Why are you screaming? Are you afraid we skip the word exclamation and wonder what mark you're talking about?
     
  7. Ziggy Stardust
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    Ziggy Stardust Active Member

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    I think I would only use an exclamation as part of dialogue, though I've never really thought about it to be honest.

    It is infinitely superior to saying "he shouted", "he said loudly", or even... "he exclaimed". :D

    If you just want to put emphasis on a particular word you use italics.
     
  8. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    that is not screaming.
    Since when capitals became screaming?!!!!!!
     
  9. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Using caps in messages has always been shouting on the internet.
     
  10. Amr M. Abdu
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    Amr M. Abdu Member

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    "Excessive use of exclamation marks in expository prose is a sure sign of an unpractised writer or of one who wants to add a spurious dash of sensation to something unsensational."
    H. W. Fowler
     
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  11. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Very, very rarely, and pretty much never in narrative. I could tolerate it occasionally in dialogue, but it wouldn't signify volume, but tone and meaning.

    Jane whispered, "Should I turn on the light?"
    "No!" James' voice was barely audible. "You'll wake her."
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    this is totally incorrect...

    should be:

    the dialog should not be in italics, colon is improperly used and placed, and multiple end marks should never be used in serious writing [though they are often used in personal, casual ways, such as in posting and email]...
     
  13. TheIllustratedMan
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    TheIllustratedMan Active Member

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    It might be because I've gotten immersed in this whole internet communication thing, but I'm not sure that I'd ever write something like this:

    "Get out of there," the commander shouted.

    When I read the quote, it's delivered dead-pan, since it ends with a comma (implied full stop). When I get to the part about it being shouted, it's already been delivered in my mind, and it's distracting to have to go back and re-hear it as a shout.

    The commander shouted, "Get out of there."

    This prepares me to hear it shouted, but having the tag before the quote feels clumsy in this case, and then I still have that pesky full-stop that makes me hear it as if it were being said by Droopy Dog. I think that I would always write it as:

    "Get out of there!" the commander shouted.

    Exclamation points exist for a reason. They add intensity to the sentence as it's being read. No amount of description before or after the fact will give the same voice to the line as an exclamation point.
    That said, I would almost never write something like this:

    "What's in the case?" asked Tim.
    "Not sure yet," Tina replied. "Open it."
    Tim took the case from Tina's hands, and used his thumbs to unhook the metal clasps holding it shut. He lifted the lid and looked inside. It was a bomb!
    "Run!" Tim yelled.

    Saying "It was a bomb!" gives a nice, short punch, but it feels lazy, maybe something that belongs in a children's book. The better way to handle that situation would be to let Tim figure out that it's a bomb in real time, maybe utter an expletive, and react to it appropriately.
    For me, I would almost always use an exclamation point in dialogue with the tags "shouted", "yelled", "screamed", etc. since there's rarely any better way to give the same impact and voice to the quote. I would almost never use an exclamation point in narrative, since there's almost always a better way to describe whatever it is that you're trying to put emphasis on.

    ETA: I agree with people above that there are other uses for an exclamation point. "Oh no" should pretty much always have an exclamation point, unless being said ironically, or being moaned, I guess. I like the example of using it for emphasis even though the character is whispering. It reads more forcibly that way.
     
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  14. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    When I was a reporter, I had an editor who had this saying:

    In general, use them very, very sparingly. Otherwise, the ones you do use will have diminished meaning, and you'll sound like an obnoxious squealy valleygirl in your writing, which isn't what you want.
     
  15. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    It depends on what you are doing. The formal grammatical use is to signal an exclamation. "Wow! I would never have thought of that." Such use is normal, and you can use it as often as your characters make exclamations. Exclamations must be short.

    You can get away with using them for emphasis in informal writing (such as forum posts), but in general if you use it simply for emphasis it gives the impression that the writer (not the speaker) is hysterical or hyper. If anybody uses multiple exclamation marks then they are -- or at least are acting like -- an over-excited 13-year-old girl.

    All of those are things that you might want in your writing. If you have a business person who writes a letter:
    Dear Mr Jones!

    Thank you for your letter of the 17th February!!

    We will be giving it our immediate attention!!!

    Yours faithfully,

    Joe Krabotznik!!!!!!!​
    Then you will have clearly signalled to your readers that Joe is immature and has no clue at all about business correspondence.
     
  16. louis1
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    louis1 Contributing Member

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    one exclamation mark every novel. no more. maybe less. there must be that one and only sentence that can only be shouted. choose wisely
     
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  17. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    All of the posts in this thread have been excellent!

    The EM (henceforward exclamation mark) has a number of uses, it seems to me.:)

    The exclamation mark is no different than any other punctuation mark. There are times when it is appropriate to use it and times when it is inappropriate to use it. Writing is the deployment of words and punctuation marks. The needless deployment of extraneous words to avoid using it is not a sign of vitality but of imbecility.

    The problem is not the mark but the prejudice.

    You shouldn't use it in formal (non-fiction) pieces. Really?

    J Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind.

    Those exclamation marks strike me as both sweet and purposeful. Jaynes uses them quite often but never inappropriately. (Their impact is not diluted if they are used appropriately.) The Origin of Consciousness is a very substantial work.
     
  18. TheIllustratedMan
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    I'm being plagued by exclamation points in the short that I'm currently writing. I have a lot of customer-service type dialogue. If you imagine someone doing customer service, they typically sound overly friendly and enthusiastic about everything. So, imagine you walk into a certain Mexican-style counter-based food establishment, here's how the conversation might go:

    "Welcome to Bo's!" said a chorus of voices from behind the counter. I walked up to the smiling man at the end.
    "What can I get for ya?" he asked me.
    "Can I get a steak burrito?"
    "You got it! D'ya want beans?"
    "Um, yeah, black beans?"
    "Sure thing! Anything else?"
    "Just, uh, whatever you put on it is fine."
    "No problem!" The man threw a salad onto my burrito and slid it down to the guy next to him, who wrapped it in foil and handed it to the girl at the register.
    "Need a drink?" she asked me.
    "Nah, I'm good."
    "OK! That's seven thirty-five!" I handed her my card, and she swiped it. "Great! You're all set, have a nice day!"
    "Thanks," I said, taking my card and my burrito and heading for the door. What a bunch of nutjobs.

    Something to that effect, anyway. So how can I show that chipper, can-do attitude without using exclamation points? It feels incredibly natural for me to put them in there, but I guess I could put "said enthusiastically" after everything.. I don't know. Help?
     
  19. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    Yes this a great little demonstrate TheIllustratedMan.
    It leads me to think that in spoken speech one does not use punctuation because there is intonation.
    In writing however, I am now thinking wether the exclamation mark limits the usage of words.

    for example

    'come over' here he exclaimed loudly.
    as opposed to
    'come over here!!' he shouted.
    the first sentence had more words/descriptive words.
    the second has less and the exclamation mark could be interpreted in many various ways.
    The question here.
    Has the writer successeded in passing what he meant with an exclamation mark?
    or
    Is the writer better off not using exclamation mark but replacing it with descriptive words like in the first example to ensure understanding?
    I think I will rethink using the exclamation mark.
     
  20. AmsterdamAssassin
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    AmsterdamAssassin Contributing Member

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    In your example, it makes perfect sense to use all those exclamation marks, because you are pointing out the fake enthusiasm that these people have to project into their speech. It's the same with showing a high school girl's dialogue - properly used exclamation marks are better than 'said enthusiastically' or similar speech tags.
     
  21. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Capital letters have become synonymous with shouting on the internet, and in general, in all types of electronic communication, they are considered bad form. At work we even have a policy of not writing emails in capital letters because it is seen as rude/shouting. In my experience, to emphasise a word, it's usually much better to use italics.
    Having said that, omg, of course I never use exclamation mark to make a point in my story. Readers don't need to be told exactly where to invest their emotions. I use the content to generate emotion, and leave it up to the reader to discern which of my "pearls of wisdom" are important to him/her.
    I use exclamation mark as it should be used - to indicate when someone raises his/her voice sufficiently to warrant the !
     
  22. AmsterdamAssassin
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    AmsterdamAssassin Contributing Member

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    Indeed.
    If you have a choice between:
    He rose from his cinema seat, pointed at the corner, and shouted, "Fire."
    or
    He rose from his cinema seat and pointed at the corner. "Fire!"

    I think the second option is less likely to jar or irritate readers.
     

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