Exclamation points say so much about a person

Cut out all those exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own jokes. —F. Scott Fitzgerald

This is a hard lesson to teach to ten-year old writers, who seem to want to shout at the world at every turn, but I agree with Fitzgerald’s assertion on exclamation points. They are almost always unnecessary and should be avoided like the plague.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I think I used a total of five exclamation points in my first two books. That’s a 230,000 word/5 exclamation point ratio.

I’m still sort of embarrassed by it.

Then there is the dreaded multiple exclamation points.

Ten-year old kids are also quite fond of the use of multiple exclamation points, and while part of me is happy to see any mark of punctuation at the end of their sentences, I tell my students that if they leave my classroom having learned to hate the multiple exclamation point as much as me, I will have done my job.


What frightens me the most, however, is the use of a space followed by a exclamation point at the end of the sentence, like the one I saw at the gym last week:

Congratulations, Jim. We think you look great, too !

See the space between the word "too" and the exclamation point? It’s as if the writer believes the exclamation point is too good to be attached to the sentence, and that by detaching it from the unworthy string of words with a space, it is both emphasized, glorified and sanitized in one simple keystroke.

Who does something like this?

Insane people.

That’s who.

Certifiable lunatics. Only the craziest of the crazy.

I’d warn the staff at the gym that a crazy person is on the loose, but what if the person who I am warning is the person responsible for the sentence?

I’m a father, now. I just can’t take that kind of chance anymore.

Despite my even greater hatred for the anonymous letter, an anonymous tip might be the only way to warn the staff that a potentially dangerous lunatic is amongst them.