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Jan's Writing Basics #4: Overusing Exclamation Points

These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.

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Postby glorybee » Mon Feb 08, 2010 9:18 pm

Barb, they're fine in casual writing! See?
Jan Ackerson

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Postby Green Leaves » Mon Feb 08, 2010 10:02 pm

Carol just breathes a huge sigh of relief. :lol:
http://www.faithwriters.com/member-profile.php?id=45576

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Postby CatLin » Mon Feb 08, 2010 10:16 pm

I recently read four books in a row wherein the main character is hiding, and his heart was beating so loud he was sure his pursuers could hear it! I decided then and there never to use that phrase!

These exclamation points show my outrage, surprise, and conviction, and the reaction of the MC, but those emotions should be as plain as the nose on your face, and quite simply aren't necessary. (Truth be told, the paragraph had its genesis as a comment on cliches and not homework, but I zeroed in on the once in a lifetime opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.)

Danielle stormed into the house, hair flying like Medusa's and her eyes a volcano of emotion. "Mom! Where are you!"

I so wanted to say "eyes blazing, but forced myself to think of something not quite so cliched ;)

Try as I might, I couldn't think of a good use for an exclamation point outside the realm of dialogue or, once in a blue moon, in a first person narrative .

On a not-quite-side point: The current Challenge theme is as good an excuse as any to use an exclamation point.

Jesse peered into the fridge. "Ohh! I forgot about the brownie fudge delight! I'm so glad Susie made me take home a hunk after her party last night."

"Ouch!" I reached down to pluck one of Johnny's Legos from my heel.


When I wrap my head around a true-blue use for the E-point, I'll be back in a flash to share it with the world.

Tata for now
Cat

:mrgreen:
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Postby Ms. Barbie » Mon Feb 08, 2010 10:43 pm

glorybee wrote:Barb, they're fine in casual writing! See?


So we don't have to feel guilty for being emphatic in our posts?
Hear that Carol? :D

Where is a single happy dancer emoticon when you need one? :party
Barb Culler

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Postby Green Leaves » Mon Feb 08, 2010 11:26 pm

You bet...that means I can be myself on the Porch. Yippee! :lol:
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"...not to advance in the spiritual life is to go back. But those who have the gale of the Holy Spirit go forward even in sleep.". Brother Lawrence

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Postby CatLin » Tue Feb 09, 2010 12:22 am

swfdoc1 wrote:
glorybee wrote:Fundraising and legal writing are so far under my radar, they're practically subterranean, so I really appreciate your insight into the norms there.


The examples of legal writing and fundraising letters are not going to be of much use to folks here, but I used fundraising (especially) as an example that people can see as a "genre" that is radically different from most others .


I was going to read all of the responses before posting again, but all the talk about genres (and the examples) made me think of what I write for a living. (DOH!) The church bulletin announcements and newsletter articles are filled with exclamation points! My pastor, in his edits and proofreading always added them until I learned that the bulletin was a proper place to EXCLAIM.

The following are made up announcements similar to what I would actually write for the bulletin:

The undefeated FBC men's softball team takes on Jonesboro First! Come on out to Heritage Park at 7pm this Thursday night and support your team!!

The children leave for camp at 2 pm today - they'd love it if you'd come pray with them before they leave! The bus will be loading in the south parking lot at 1:30. Thank you!!


And I exclaim a lot on FB posts and emails too. Personal correspondence is an entirely different dimension of writing as far as I'm concerned. It's how I talk! I exclaim a lot!! ;)
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Postby CatLin » Tue Feb 09, 2010 12:30 am

Ms. Barbie wrote:
glorybee wrote:Barb, they're fine in casual writing! See?


So we don't have to feel guilty for being emphatic in our posts?


Heck no!!! The message board posts are the perfect place to unleash your exclamation points! They even gave us a special emoticon for it!!!!!!

:!: :!: :!: :!: :!: :!: :!:


Ms. Barbie wrote:Where is a single happy dancer emoticon when you need one? :party


:superhappy



:lol:

:mrgreen:
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Postby Ms. Barbie » Tue Feb 09, 2010 1:08 am

CatLin wrote:
:superhappy

:lol:

:mrgreen:


Oh yah, Duh!
I've wondered about the green guy, I thot green inferred jealousy!
Barb Culler

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Postby CatLin » Tue Feb 09, 2010 1:43 am

Ms. Barbie wrote:
CatLin wrote:
:superhappy

:lol:

:mrgreen:


Oh yah, Duh!
I've wondered about the green guy, I thot green inferred jealousy!



I see Mr. Green as a gloating, mischievous, sarcastic-grinning guy - Kinda like the Cheshire Cat. :mrgreen:
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Postby glorybee » Tue Feb 09, 2010 8:10 am

Cat, thanks a lot for your thoughts on both exclamation points and cliches. I always love reading your contributions.

I was interested in what you said about your church bulletin...ours uses no exclamation points. Could be a difference in the writing style of whoever writes the bulletin content, or the formality of the church. My wonderful pastor writes our announcements, and he's a quiet, low-key ind of guy (and somewhat of a linguist). And our church is also quiet and low-key.
Jan Ackerson

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Postby glorybee » Tue Feb 09, 2010 8:15 am

For the record--I'd never presume to suggest to people how they should write their personal correspondence, Facebook statuses, e-mails, IMs, texts, Post-it notes, or shopping lists!

It's about the Writing Challenge, mostly--and I hope that some of the skills will take root for those who decide to take the next step.

Also, as I've stated before--I'm hardly an expert. Most of the stuff I write is just personal opinion, things that have bugged me, and things I suspect aren't quite right. It's not gospel--take what works for you, and disregard the rest.

Really!
Jan Ackerson

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Postby OldManRivers » Tue Feb 09, 2010 8:42 am

Jan -

I have found that sloppy internet communication has caused more miscommunication than good communication.

I find it often reflects a laziness of thought. Ohhh, I yearn for the days of taking a pen in hand and writing that slowly created bit of heart-to-heart, mind-to-mind communication that could be kept in a letter box for years.

jim
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Reply to Lesson on Exclamation points

Postby Toni Star » Tue Feb 09, 2010 5:08 pm

It was one in the morning and the sky was dark and a fog began to form. Jan was coming home from a late shift and she was finding it hard to see the road ahead of her. As she approached a four way stop, she saw a deer to the right of her plunge forward. She cried, "Dear Lord, help me!"

Seconds later she pulled over to catch her breath and gave thanks to the good Lord for His help.

In this case, I feel the exclamation point is needed because the character was frightened and scared; however if this paragraph was written differently such as...She pulled over to the side of the road and gave thanks to God for His help...it would not need an exclamation point...

This is a good lesson because I, like many others, often misuse the exclamation point...

Toni
Toni Star, freelance writer/editor and graduate student

"Never give up, for there is always an answer for everyone who seeks, knocks or asks."

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Postby glorybee » Tue Feb 09, 2010 5:32 pm

Toni, you've done it exactly right.

And it's precisely why I don't drive at night in Michigan.
Jan Ackerson

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Postby Verna » Tue Feb 09, 2010 7:22 pm

Jan, your lesson on exclamation points and cliches is very appropriate for writing beginners AND for some of us who have been writing a longgggggggggg time. Since I may use both in nonstandard writing, my "sloppiness or laziness sometimes slips into the writing that I want to sparkle. I don't want that to happen. I appreciate all your reminders.
Verna

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