Writing Tips by Gary Speer

Tips for writers, musing about writing and life

If only it were up to me! I’d banish exclamation marks!!

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(EDITOR’S NOTE: This post is sort of a “golden oldie,” since I originally posted it in March 2007. It was among the posts I lost with The Crash in December 2007. I found a copy and wanted to have it “on record,” so I’ve done a bit of rewriting — and here it is.)

I just finished doing some work on a project other people had edited! One particular writer was very enthusiastic about her subject! She was writing some anecdotes that involved a lot of dialog! Every bit of dialog was surrounded by quotation marks and ended with exclamation marks!

Forgive me for overusing exclamation marks to make my point. Obviously, it didn’t look quite that “cheesy” the way she did it — but it was close.

For all of you, especially you new writers out there, kill the exclamation mark. Simply erase it from your list of punctuation tools. Rip it off your keyboard. (No, don’t do that. You don’t want to lose your “1” key.) Rummage around in your punctuation toolbox, find that sucker, and fling it against the wall.

Using an exclamation mark is much like using smiley faces or (LOL!) in email. When you are writing, the content of your material should make the mood obvious. If your reader cannot tell you are excited, your characters are excited, or somebody is excited — it won’t help to put an exclamation mark in there.

Am I being too harsh? Is this to opinionated? Let me hear about it. Please. What are your thoughts and feelings about exclamation marks? I REALLY want to know!! (LOL!)

Now get busy and write something to make us all proud.
[tags]punctuation, advice for new writers, exclamation marks, writing tips, writing style, writing tips at garyspeer.com[/tags]

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6 Responses to “If only it were up to me! I’d banish exclamation marks!!”

  1. Lisar Luu says:


  2. Tom says:

    Use it extremely sparingly. But getting rid of it altogether is a bad idea.

  3. Wednesday says:

    I was taught in creative and technical writing courses at uni in the 80s to very rarely, if ever, use exclamation marks in anything. It was good advice, and so is yours.

  4. Great article. Thoroughly enjoyable. Good luck!

  5. theresa says:

    I agree 100% I teach military NCOs the basics of writing good sentences and paragraphs, and I once told a class, “You should only use an exclamation mark three times in your life.” Well, they have to take a test in which they must find errors written in a document. They all thought the exclamation mark was an error because of what I said.

    Sometimes my “grammarisms” get me into hot water.

  6. Gary says:

    I love it. Thanks for sharing that. I understand just what you mean. In my case, I just consider it the price of hyperbole — a price somebody’s got to pay, why not me?

    And, yeah, I’ll bite — what three times? Or is that simply a rhetorical number?

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