Monday, June 29, 2009
Confessions of an Exclamation Mark Abuser
Hi. I’m Laura. I have a punctuation problem. A month ago, I didn’t even know the danger in its overuse. Now, I’m taking steps to work through my addiction.
I’m not sure when my love of the exclamation mark began. School House Rock might have lit the spark. Who could resist the catchy interjections video? I am a proud owner of the Grammar Rock video. The warning on the back says nothing about the overuse of exclamation points.
If Grammar Rock was where it began, I’m sure middle school fueled it. Heaven help me if my 7th grade boyfriend should ever decide to go public with the book of love notes and poems I gave him. I can only imagine the number of exclamation marks included in that collection.
Last month on Twitter, someone I follow and respect started tweeting about their hate for the exclamation point. I gasped. Then I saw it retweeted over and over again by agents and editors. It began to sink in. Exclamation marks don’t make writing exciting. Vivid verbs and powerful word choice do.
How bad of an offender was I? My search found 116 exclamation marks in the first draft of the chapter book I’d written. Yikes. Almost all of them are gone now. There are a few times when no other mark will do.
I believe, and I think Oprah would back me on this one, that we can use the ugliness from our past to help others. So check your writing, folks. Don’t let an addiction to the exclamation mark get in the way of a beautiful writing career.