Topic: Stop!

Exclamation marks or points (!) are used when a writer wants to show strong feelings. Similar to using ALL CAPS when texting or messaging, exclamation points are like shouting when you speak. They are rarely used in newspapers because they are more appropriate for informal writing. It’s fine to use them when writing friendly e-mails, letters, texts, or tweets. When trying to use fewer words, it’s okay to rely on punctuation to express feeling.

But, in more formal writing, exclamation points may be a lazy way to describe emotion.

Writer F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.”

Author Elmore Leonard wrote, “You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.” That means about one per novel.

Why were these talented writers so down on this punctuation mark? Perhaps it is because they knew that good writers “show” rather than “tell.” They use words to convey meaning rather than count on the punctuation to do the job. And overuse of the exclamation mark cuts down on its meaning and its impact.

Look carefully to see if you can find any exclamation marks in today’s newspaper. If you find one, see if you can figure out why it was used.

Rewrite each of these sentences, replacing the exclamation marks with words that convey the meaning intended. Use “muscular” language with strong verbs and nouns.
I was rejected from the college I wanted to attend!
Don’t use too many exclamation points!!
There was an accident!

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