1. shanemitchell1
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    shanemitchell1 Member

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    What's up with the exclamation point?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by shanemitchell1, Apr 6, 2009.

    I have always heard to: not use exclamation points in your writing, not even in your dialog. I was reading Rangers Apprentice by John Flanagan, and because it is a book designed for young kids, I am finding it very exciting to read, but I did notice that he used lots of exclamation points in his dialog when characters would get angry or show some kind of excitement. I thought about it and surely this would be great for kids but not for adults, and so I picked up a James Patterson book, a young adults book at that, and surely enough he used exclamation points as well. Now I thought again: Young adult book needs that style of writing, so I picked up one of Patterson's adult novel's and he also was using lots of exclamation points.
    I mean it is a part of the english language right? It would seem just as important as a period or a question mark. Is is fine to use exclamation points, or is there another way of expressing excitement, maybe with italics? It was bothering me, and I needed to know.
    Thanks.
     
  2. Miswrite
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    Miswrite Member

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    My rule is, don't use in description, but use it, if sparingly, in dialogue. You just have to judge for yourself.

    He ran as quick as a cheetah! "No." he shouted.

    To me, that looks, for lack of a better word, stupid. If he shouted, there should be a ! And the ! in the description makes me feel like if I read it out loud, I would have to read it like HE RAN AS QUICK AS A CHEETAH!!!! no, he shouted. Actually, yeah, pretend you're reading out loud. That's a good guide.

    It's fine to do whatever you want. Personally though, I wouldn't use italics. There's something childish about them, even for emphasis.
     
  3. Moira
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    Moira Member

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    I personally only use italics when someone is punctuating something.

    "And Ithought you had it bad." Or when someone is thinking to themselves.

    I use exclamation points when I write. Like you said it's just as important as the period or question mark. Lol. On-line people tend to write IN ALL UPPERCASE LETTERS WHEN THEY'ER TRYING TO GET THIER YELLING ACROSS. But that's not so true in true writing. Hence the exclamation point. It's like uppercase, only more appropriate. :D
     
  4. Castlesofsand
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    Castlesofsand Banned

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    i'm not a big fan of the ! or at least when used with , he shouted, or she screamed, one seems to say the same as the other.

    i do use italics but as thought only, just to set it apart, saves me from using 'i thought' and such

    but i seldom use those ! i think its an individual's taste to decided
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    don't know where you could have 'always heard' that, because it's not good advice... though i'd agree that there's seldom [if ever] any good reason to use them in narrative, there's plenty of need for them in dialog... you couldn't very well write someone saying the single words, "Hi" or "Help" without one, now could you?
     
  6. Phantasmal Reality
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    Phantasmal Reality Contributing Member

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    I'd shy away from using the exclamation point in any kind of third-person narrative, but it can be appropriate for very forceful thoughts in first-person. Regardless of the POV, don't exclude exclamation points from use in your dialogue. As mammamaia pointed out, they really are needed there for things like "Hi!" and "Help!". Why the heck would we even have something like the exclamation point if it didn't add anything and should never be used?

    Everything can be a tool to communicate an idea or emotion to a reader: a font, a certain use of white space, dashes, dots, exclamation points, etc. Don't limit yourself to a certain bag of tricks because of some notion of what "true writers" would use. Experiment and find your own style! If it works, it works--people will appreciate it. If it doesn't, you at least know what not to do in the future. Just like people who refuse to use any slang when talking, like it's something filthy, I find people who feel like they must write a certain way to be equally priggish. Every rule out there is arbitrary anyway. God didn't carve them into some stone and hand them to mankind, we just made them up ourselves. I'm not saying go so crazy that people can't read your work (the rules do exist for a practical reason), but feel free to experiment with them. If you come up with something that works, maybe someone else will copy you, and someone will copy them, and in a hundred years your little variation may be quite accepted. :-D
     
  7. lynneandlynn
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    lynneandlynn Contributing Member

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    I think exclamation points are overused but they shouldn't be avoided entirely. Sometimes there's no better way to get a point across than to use an exclamation. For example, if someone is objecting to being tickled.. a simple "Hey!" does the trick pretty well.
     
  8. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I think exclamation marks are given a bad rep by bad writers using them too much.

    I've seen exclamation marks used very effectively on a few occasions in a first person narrative; such as in The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe.

    Another thing that isn't used enough in writing is the semicolon. Though this appears to be regaining some popularity.
     
  9. lynneandlynn
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    lynneandlynn Contributing Member

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    Oh no Lemex, you better hide. Mammamaia will get you for suggesting the semi-colon is underused. Seriously, go hide. :p
     
  10. Miswrite
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    Miswrite Member

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    I love the semicolon; I've recently been taught how to use it properly and now try not to butcher it. It's difficult, however; I often find myself using it incorrectly. It's very useful to use instead of the dash in some cases.
     
  11. Castlesofsand
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    Castlesofsand Banned

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    i like those semi-colons also, when not over-used. and should someone wish to hunt me down for using them, well i'm easily found :)
     
  12. Miswrite
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    Miswrite Member

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    I have to go back in my writing and edit out a large number of the semi-colons because I use them all the time now :D
     
  13. x_raichelle_x
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    x_raichelle_x Contributing Member

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    Lol I totally overuse semi-colons; I love them =D
     
  14. bluejt2000
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    I've read that editors refer to exclamation marks as 'screamers' because inexperienced writers tend to use them to show anger, i.e., "Go away, I hate you!" (perhaps followed by, 'she said angrily').

    My personal 'rule' is to only use exclamation marks after an exclamation, i.e., "No!", "Yes!", "Damn!", etc.
     
  15. Okie
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    Okie Member

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    But what if the screaming is actually exclaiming something. Then I should use an exclamation mark right?
    Or is it like everytime I use one in dialog, I'm immediately stamped a noob?
    I'm confused.
     
  16. Miswrite
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    I think that if you say "Go away, I hate you!" she said angrily, it sounds ridiculous. Now, if it was "Go away, I hate you!" she screamed, then it's better. See the difference? I don't think you can have a character yell something and then said she said it. If the ! is there, it means she did not say it, but rather yelled/shouted/screamed/cried out.
     
  17. thegearheart
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    thegearheart Member

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    Perhaps:
    Sandy threw a large textbook at Don, and he ducked away. "Go away! I hate you!"

    "Sandy, calm down!"
     
  18. Phantasmal Reality
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    Phantasmal Reality Contributing Member

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    Semicolons are... ugly, in my opinion. I've messed around with them, almost tee-heeing with delight at using a "strange" punctuation that made me "feel like a writer". Then I got over it, went, "Wait... I don't really need any of these," and proceeded to replace them in my writing. When I was done, it looked much better. But hey, that's just my opinion. If you enjoy using comma and period's lovechild, go for it.

    Use exclamation points when someone is being truly emphatic about something, or is speaking in a much louder voice than normal to be heard (shouting to a friend across a noisy room). If you happen to have emphatic characters who often shout things, don't worry about "overusing" the exclamation point.
     
  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i don't know where you seem to think they're becoming popular, but they simply don't go over well in fiction, though they are of course a useful little mark in non-fiction, and always have been...

    the thing is, while they were in use many decades ago in fiction and may still be used by some british-school fiction writers, the average fiction reader doesn't know what to make of them... and they are like a hiccup in the flow, when one's reading along nicely and they pop up... in every single instance where you might use a semicolon in fiction, a comma, period, em dash, or conjunction will do a much better job... period!

    end of lecture ;-)
     
  20. theheresy
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    theheresy Member

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    hi I'm new here. Just wanted to chime in. I never heard of this rule but it now makes sense. I'm currently almost done reading The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Chabon and there's a scene where a character commits suicide and another character says something like "No." which I found strange as I would have expected "No!" but with this rule in mind I suppose that now makes sense.
     
  21. theheresy
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    theheresy Member

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    p.s. I went back to that scene and there IS an exclamation point somewhere else in the scene but during dialogue only.
     
  22. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    It was just an observation of my area, and they are being used more and more in local fiction and reporting. But that's just it - I'm British, and we still use the semicolon were I live. Fact; I think it is one of the most under appreciated things in writing.
     
  23. KP Williams
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    KP Williams Contributing Member

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    Once again, I disagree. I come across moments all the time when the semicolon flows far more naturally than anything else I could use. And I've yet to meet anyone who claims to be so confused by a punctuation mark that it throws them out of the story for a bit. Sure, maybe it's best kept out of dialogue (except for particularly formal-speaking characters), but I see no problem using it in the narrative.
     
  24. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Exactly. I've never met anyone who either didn't know what a semicolon was, or didn't just treat it like a comma and read the work regardless - understanding it perfectly well.
     

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