One-Minute Book Reviews

January 5, 2009

What’s Wrong With All Those Exclamation Points!!! In Books or E-Mail!!! (Quote of the Day / ‘Send: The Essential Guide to E-Mail for Home and Office’)

Filed under: How to — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:13 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

At the end of February, I’ll announce the finalists for the Delete Key Awards for the year’s worst writing in books. And if tradition holds, some will read like a screenplay called Attack of the Killer Exclamation Points.

What’s wrong with overloading a book with exclamation points besides that it looks — well, dippy? David Shipley and Will Schwalbe respond indirectly in Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Home and Office (Knopf, 247, $19.95).

They note that in e-mail the exclamation point has found new life as a surrogate emoticon:

“The traditional rules allow for an exclamation point only after an actual exclamation – ‘My Goodness!’ or ‘Good Grief!’ Few abide by this any more.

“Exclamation points can instantly infuse electronic communication with human warmth. ‘Thanks!!!!’ is friendlier than ‘Thanks.’ And ‘Hooray!!!!!’ is more celebratory than ‘Hooray.’ Because e-mail is without affect, it has a dulling quality that almost necessitates kicking everything up a notch just to bring it to where it would normally be. If you try saying ‘Thanks’ or ‘Congratulations’ in the flattest voice you can muster, you’ll notice it sounds sarcastic. Without an exclamation point, these may read the same way on the screen.”

The catch is that while exclamation points are an “effective way to combat e-mail’s essential lack of tone,” the authors say, they’re also lazy: The better your choice of words, “the less need you will have for this form of shorthand.”

That comment suggests why a blizzard of exclamation points hurts books more than e-mail: We know our electronic correspondents don’t always have the time to refine every word. Authors do have the time. And unlike e-mail, books have tone, the psychological cast or shading of their words. If the tone is well-controlled, a book may succeed even if other aspects of it fail. Authors who substitute exclamation points for the right words are defaulting on a vital task: control of tone helps to set the mood much else in a book.

Have you read a 2008 book by an author who abused exclamation points or another punctuation mark? If so, you can nominate the book for a Delete Key Awards by leaving a comment.

© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

2 Comments »

  1. The real problem with all the exclamation points, is that it makes your writing seem quite tacky. Like this!!! It’s like I don’t have anything to say at all!!! But I just keep shouting, because I can!!!

    I haven’t read anything lately with too many punctuation marks of any type. I read alot though. When I do run across one I’ll come back and post it. The last Stephen King novel I read was chaulk full of errors, and run-on sentences, but I don’t think that qualifies as overusage.

    Cheers,
    Trevas

    Comment by eBookGuru — January 6, 2009 @ 12:12 am | Reply

    • Tacky is a good word for it. That might be more accurate than my “dippy.”

      Age and context can be factors, too. It seems much more natural and acceptable for teenagers to overuse exclamation points than for people just a few years older, such as people in their 20s who are trying to impress coworkers in a first job.

      Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — January 6, 2009 @ 12:22 am | Reply


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

The Rubric Theme. Blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 377 other followers

%d bloggers like this: