Tag Archives: ernest hemingway

Help curb excessive exclamations – resist the urge to use an exclamation point

There is only one exclamation point in Ernest Hemingway’s - The Old Man and the Sea - published in 1951.

There were eight exclamation points in Anthony Burgess’ – A Clockwork Orange - published in 1962.

But four novels published in the 21st century each have 250 or more exclamation points, with one using 439. And this highlights the growing trend to use, or overuse, the punctuation mark in writing.

Jeff Umbro, from Quartz, searched “more than 1 million books published between 1970 and 2008, and found that the frequency of exclamation marks has soared.”

He asks that we clamp down on this, and I agree. Resist the urge to exclaim and instead write with style.

Take the advice of William Zinsser from his classic, On Writing Well:

Don’t use it unless you must to achieve a certain effect. It has a gushy aura – the breathless excitement of a debutante commenting on an event that was exciting only to her…construct your sentences so that the order of the words will put the emphasis where you want it. Also resist using it to notify the reader that you are making a joke or being ironic. Readers are annoyed by your reminder that this was a comical moment. They are also robbed of the pleasure of making the discovery themselves. Humor is best achieved by understatement, and there’s nothing subtle about an exclamation point.

 

Follow the classics. (source: Alexandre Dulaunoy)