Exclamation Points


8 June 2014

We do love our exclamation points. They are so expressive. They can show delight or frustration. They show surprise, or shock, or incredulity. We can make our feelings even more obvious by using a whole string of them!!!!!!  We can even pin one over our heart and let the world guess what it is we're trying to say.

As with other displays of emotion, we should exercise restraint. If we're writing a historical novel, there may well be times that our Civil War heroine utters an oath that demands an exclamation point. (Scarlet O'Hara used a few of them herself.) In expository writing, however, there's rarely a statement that justifies its use. Formal writing requires us to be thoughtful and even-handed. We're expected to appraise issues impartially. Jumping with joy over a discovery leaves an impression of bias, and our readers tend to find emotional roller-coasters tiresome.