Sunday, March 22, 2009

Those Tempting Exclamation Points

I recently received a question about when the use of an exclamation point is appropriate. I've already written about that tempting little punctuation mark on my website, but it never hurts to repeat a warning. Do not overuse the exclamation point!

And please, please, please, do not use multiple exclamation points!!!!

What's the harm, you ask? Between friends, in an email perhaps, there's no real harm. But in writing for people outside your immediate sphere, whether you're writing fiction or nonfiction (and especially in the business world), the exclamation point should be avoided. 

There might be a legitimate reason for using an exclamation point if one were writing a user's manual and it was necessary to warn of a potential danger, although even then, I'd suggest writing the word in all caps (DANGER!).  Oops. See that exclamation point at the end of DANGER? I found I just couldn't write the word "Danger" followed by a simpering little period. In addition to screaming the word by using all caps, I needed to emphasize it by adding that exclamation point.  

So you see, they really are tempting little punctuation marks.  All we can do is try to avoid them. Sigh!

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