Archive for December, 2010

The above title is an example of when it’s possibly okay to use explanation points.

Though, even then, four of them is a bit much, don’t you think?

I was reminded to write about this after seeing a lively exchange among Pennwriters on this very topic. I wanted to address it because I am a frequent offender. Just look at them all in my past blogs (on second thought, don’t). It’s becoming a disturbing problem.

While I certainly know better than to use them in my professional writing, they seem to pop up almost without my thinking in personal emails, blogs, and of course, Facebook. I seem to find it necessary somehow. I’ll use it instead of a smiley face (which I also use way too often) to show that I’m smiling, or winking, through my words. They pop up when I want to emphasize an important point, a shocking revelation, or after a question, such as “Can you believe it?!!

We write so casually nowadays that we often tend to abandon those die-hard grammar rules we writers usually live by.  Though, in all honesty, I guess I’ve been using exclamation points since back when handwritten letters were a common means of communication (ah, how I miss those), and through all those years I spent huddled over my typewriter (of which I don’t miss so much).

Yes, a lot of formality has gone the way of the dinosaur. And some of this casual writing is welcomed. More often than not, prose reads better when you can end a sentence with a preposition, or begin one with a conjunction (such as “and” or “but”), or use fragments (all within reason, of course). I also get a little chuckle now whenever I read all those looooong, ongoing sentences by bestselling authors, recalling how often my English teachers marked on my papers, “Stop using so many Run-On Sentences!” (As a matter of fact, I do believe they always added an exclamation point. Or two!!). 

Some conversational writing, of course, has gotten way out of hand (yes, I’m talking to you, next generation of writers). When I see my adult daughters’ spelling and bad grammar in their texts (and they were good students), I cringe every time. But that’s a blog for another day. . . .

Oh, did you see that? I threw in an ellipses—yet another thing I see misused all the time. So since this blog is getting long (rule number one in blogs: Don’t be boring, or overstay your welcome) and I still have some shopping to do on this Christmas Eve, I’ll just leave you with these thoughts to keep in mind.

Ellipses do not go on and on (and on, and on). There are either three (for unfinished thoughts or sentences), or four, and a space is used between each one. And be watchful for any overuse of dashes, parentheses, italics and yes! yes! yes! those excitable exclamation points (although in that last example, you romance writers are free to use them where noted :-).

Remember that whenever you overuse anything, rather than enhance your writing, they serve to distract from it!!! As you see, overuse of exclamation points—to use my youngest daughter’s favorite saying—can be just so annoying!!!!

So, along with a few other resolutions I’ve been listing for this new year, I’m going to follow my own advice. No more exclamation points!

I wish all of you wonderful writers a happy, healthy and published New Year!! (Okay, clearly, there’s work to be done :-).


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