Bangorrhoea!

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Paul Whybrow

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Writing gurus recommend limiting the use of exclamation points, to perhaps just one every 1,000 words.

This article contemplates the use of the exclamation point:

After Years Of Restraint, A Linguist Says 'Yes!' To The Exclamation Point

There have been several attempts, over the years, to introduce the interrobang—a combination of the question mark and exclamation mark, for situations where there are confusion and excitement.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interrobang

I think that there's a difference between using an exclamation point in writing a novel, and when addressing a friend in an email. I certainly use more exclamation points when composing a humorous message to someone who knows me well.

Noah Lukeman, in his 'The Art of Punctuation' advises that an exclamation point can be used to express a direct command, or when someone's shouting, and to express great surprise, pain or anger.

But, he adds:

'This said, the reason so many attack the exclamation mark is that, like the question mark, it can be painfully misused. Like the question mark, it can be used as a crutch to create a heightened sense of drama, can be transformed into a screaming car salesman. As a rule, if you need an exclamation mark to make a scene come alive, then you had better reexamine that scene. Drama should always be built naturally and organically, and not need a ploy to grab a reader's attention.'

F. Scott Fitzgerald didn't like them at all:

“Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.”

In writing my stories, I use exclamation marks sparingly but have been known to use several in one paragraph, especially when characters are having a spiteful argument.

How do you use exclamation marks?

Are you suffering from Bangorrhoea? :confused:
 
I have used them in shouty dialogue, eg, someone has a row with his girlfriend and shouts 'what the f...!'
Nowhere else, not for any other purpose.
 
I don't write many dialogues in my short stories, so no, really don't use them that much. Had one dialogue completely cut out of the story - it did warrant the use of exclamation mark, but I felt it read.. a little bit forced, to be honest. Not being sure how to solve that particular conundrum, I ended up deleting the scene.
Eh, it was not even that good of a story in the first place ;)


Conversely, how do you actually do use exclamation marks in a scene without making it seem forced or fake? Asking for a friend ;)
 
I don't write many dialogues in my short stories, so no, really don't use them that much. Had one dialogue completely cut out of the story - it did warrant the use of exclamation mark, but I felt it read.. a little bit forced, to be honest. Not being sure how to solve that particular conundrum, I ended up deleting the scene.
Eh, it was not even that good of a story in the first place ;)


Conversely, how do you actually do use exclamation marks in a scene without making it seem forced or fake? Asking for a friend ;)

It comes back to our old friend, show, don't tell. :)

If you've set up the scene and shown your character's anger, frustration, surprise, or whatever is making you feel you need the exclamation point in the dialogue, then you probably don't need the exclamation point in the dialogue. Truthfully, I tend to use them (when I use them at all) in internal thought. When I write dialogue, I have a lot going on around it, and because I've shown the emotion, I don't need that mark at the end of a sentence. The emotion is already there. If you believe it's forced to use it, you're probably right. :)

Here's an example:

No ... this was not happening. This could not be real. Sally stared at John, willing the words he'd spoken to disappear from her mind. "Are you telling me you cheated on me last year? Last year? When you were supposed to be in Seattle, visiting your dying grandmother? Is that what you're telling me?"

Hands clenched into fists at her side. Sweat broke out along her hairline. From the kitchen, the clock struck. She forced herself to count the tiny chimes, but it didn't work. She felt no calmer as they rang out. Four ... five ... six ... And still he stood there, not answering, with that expression on his face. A cross between the look of an animal caught in a trap, and a man feverishly working to come up with a plausible lie.

"Answer me, John." Goddammit. Answer me!


I suppose you could just as easily put the exclamation point at the end of the "Answer me, John." sentence, but I like it in her internal thought better. By merely placing a period there, we get a real sense of how she's trying to control her voice, but inside, she's about to lose it.

Hope this helps! :)
 
Thanks, Carol! That was really helpful.
The truth is, most of my stories are written from outsider perspective - lot of reflection and observation, and yes, internal dialogue, but mostly I stay away from writing the actual dialogue. I tend to overdo it, so until I find some way I'm comfortable with, I don't think I would be writing much of those anytime soon.
Although, learning how to write better is one of the reasons I've joined, so thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for these tips.

By the way, that sounds like a wicked good story ;) One of yours?
 
Thanks, Carol! That was really helpful.
The truth is, most of my stories are written from outsider perspective - lot of reflection and observation, and yes, internal dialogue, but mostly I stay away from writing the actual dialogue. I tend to overdo it, so until I find some way I'm comfortable with, I don't think I would be writing much of those anytime soon.
Although, learning how to write better is one of the reasons I've joined, so thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for these tips.

By the way, that sounds like a wicked good story ;) One of yours?
LOL! Thanks! And actually, I made this up on the spot. ;) I'm glad I could help. Please keep asking questions. This group is amazing. :)
 
I'm guilty of overusing exclamation marks--it's one of those things I look for specifically when editing. However, I sometimes use them in the dialogue of characters who are overexcitable by nature, because it forces the reader to read their words the way I hear them. I suppose, it's almost writing in dialect.
 
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