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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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Green Leaves
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Postby Green Leaves » Tue Feb 09, 2010 10:26 pm

Jim, you make a very good point.

One thing I am trying to do since I live so far from my grandchildren...write a few little letters by hand to just remind them how much I love them. Most of them are still very small and receiving mail is still a big deal. Well, come to think of it, receiving handwritten letters is a big deal to ME too. :D
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Postby Joolz » Thu Feb 11, 2010 9:41 am

Jan, thanks for your encouragement to continue with this class.

I usually don't have trouble with exclamation points as I limit them to dialogue, though I found this in one of my challenge entries:

Gary was engrossed in his game and hadn’t noticed Jess’s presence until she grabbed the console out of his hands and threw it onto the sofa beside him.
“Hey…what… where’d you come from?”
“Shhh!” Jess whispered, “You’ll wake everybody!”
Gary was annoyed at the interruption. “Stupid girl!” he whispered as he fumbled for the game console.
***

I've got my teens "whispering" loudly - I think I would keep the EPs (but only because it is dialogue) and change "whispered" to "said".

Re - cliches, oops! I do appreciate your notes about this - I'm sure I overuse them [being Australian and all - we love 'em]. It's not only a lazy way of writing but I've just realized that cliches are so well used, people may already have a mental picture of the phrase, or worse may even gloss over it [thinking 'eyes blazing' here] and not get the picture you have in mind at all.
I'll have to watch this in future. :)

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Postby glorybee » Sat Feb 13, 2010 8:32 am

Julie, sorry it took so long to get back to you--between computer issues and staying with my grandbaby for a few days, I've been a bit out of touch.

I agree with you that you can keep the exclamation points there if you change the verb.

And definitely watch for those cliches!
Jan Ackerson

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Postby kpwrite » Sat Feb 13, 2010 5:48 pm

Jeremy hunkered down into his chair, his hand poised menacingly over the mouse. He was the galactic overlord, and his forces were prepared to battle the dreadnaughts to the death! He clicked once, then again, and 'BLAM!' The enemy was history.

I think the e.p. after death could be dropped. It works there, but it isn't totally necessary.
Kristi

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Postby glorybee » Sat Feb 13, 2010 6:03 pm

Kpwrite, I'll give you a mile disagreement on that e.p. That's exactly the kind of e.p. that I'd avoid at all costs. The words like menacingly, overlord, dreadnaughts, death all establish the atmosphere of tension and battle...the punctuation is overkill.

I'd grudgingly allow it if you made the last sentence Jeremy's thoughts:

Jeremy hunkered down into his chair, his hand poised menacingly over the mouse. I will battle the dreadnaughts to the death! He clicked once, then again, and 'BLAM!' The enemy was history.

On the other hand...sci fi and fantasy sometimes play by different rules. If this were part of a larger work for which you were seeking an agent or a publisher, I'd look into the style that's favored there. If they like the e.p. in the narrative, then feel free to keep it!
Jan Ackerson

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Postby kpwrite » Sun Feb 14, 2010 12:34 am

:oops:

Point taken. I was watching my 9-year-old play a video game while writing this one out. Everything is exciting when you're 9!
Kristi

"When I stand before God at the end of my life I would hope that I would have not a single bit of talent left and could say, 'I used everything you gave me.'" -Erma Bombeck

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Exclamation

Postby philippa » Sun Feb 14, 2010 5:45 am

"Hey! Put those down!"
Mary took off after the two thieves who had nearly knocked her over in their hast to get away.
She had no idea why she should be so indignant;she was just another customer after all! Perhaps it was that they had snickered as they grabbed the boxes and fled.
What would she do if she caught up with them?

I think I am an ! addict. I am twitching in horror at the prospect of abstinence (hover hover)
That dear little mark following 'after all' is not necessary :cry:
Love your wonderful class Jan. You are the best (hover hover)

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Postby glorybee » Sun Feb 14, 2010 7:56 am

Philippa, thanks for showing self-restraint. The ! is definitely not needed after "after all".

What about this for a possible minor re-write:

"Hey! Put those down!"

Mary took off after the two thieves who had nearly knocked her over in their haste to get away. She had no idea why she should be so indignant; after all, she was just another customer. Perhaps it was that they had snickered as they grabbed the boxes and fled.


Notice that I also changed your paragraphing a little bit. Now, here's something else for you to consider: Mary should be indignant--she's been knocked over by thieves. Why doesn't she realize this?

How about this second re-write:

"Hey! Put those down!"

Mary took off after the two thieves who had nearly knocked her over in their haste to get away. She was incensed that someone would treat her this way; even worse, they had snickered as they grabbed the boxes and fled.


What do you think?
Jan Ackerson

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Incensed

Postby philippa » Sun Feb 14, 2010 6:27 pm

It reads smoothly your way Jan. I should concede...except that? No I agree on second thought. At first reading I jumped in and judged Mary for being a bit precious. Not relevant to the lesson.
It actually happened and I chased the two for several blocks, calling out 'even if you get away I've seen your faces'; they dumped the boxes in the end. LOL.
When I huffed and puffed back to the store, boxes in hand, the owner shrugged one shoulder -not even two (hover hover) and said 'oh ok, thanks'. Hence the statement about being just a customer. I teetered on the brink of being precious for some time after that.

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Postby Joolz » Sun Feb 14, 2010 11:47 pm

Philippa, I'm impressed at your bravery. You rock!

And that shop owner should have his head read ...

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Re: Jan's Writing Basics #4: Overusing Exclamation Points

Postby A Nonny Mouse » Wed Feb 17, 2010 5:30 am

glorybee wrote:that translates to one exclamation point for every 133 Writing Challenge entries.


Oh, wow. When I read this statement, I about fell over. I am the world's worst at overusing exclamation points! See? I just did it again!

I love your lessons! (Hope that exclamation point isn't out of line) I have learned so much, and can see the amount of clean-up work I willl need to do on my novels.

Sorry I haven't posted before now. There's been a lot of sickness in this house.

Okay, here's my homework:

The snow this winter has been incredible! For the last two months, this area hasn't been without the soft white covering that glistens in the sunlight. It can be wearying, though. I look at the ten-foot snow piles resulting from repeated plowings of our parking lot and wonder, will we ever see green grass again?

I really don't think the exclamation point after the word "incredible" is needed, because if something is incredible, then it shouldn't need emphasis through puncuation. Am I right about that?

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Postby DanielK » Thu Feb 18, 2010 3:15 am

This is a part of an English assignment I wrote in school some time back. The story was about a theft of mulberry trees and silk worms in Medieval England, and had at least ten exclamation points in it. The whole story was about 6000 words long and now I see that ten is too many.

Fredrick's men ran to Matthew's house with every intention of breaking down the door and arresting him at once. <b>But then, when they broke down the door, it turned out that Matthew was innocent!</b> Despite a great search, there was not a trace of any mulberry trees or worms in the little house. Outside, however, Alex had slipped off his horse and was inspecting the ground Suddenly he gasped. <b>There, on the floor, lay a squashed silken cocoon! And a little further along the floor was a mulberry leaf!</b>

<b>But then, when they broke down the door, it turned out that Matthew was innocent!</b> Rereading the story I realize now that that exclamation mark is unnecessary because, for one thing, Matthew's innocence isn't too surprising, and so it made me read it in a surprised voice when I was thinking "Yeah. Of course he was."

<b>There, on the floor, lay a squashed silken cocoon! And a little further along the floor was a mulberry leaf!</b> Now I read this, after doing your class, Jan, I see that full stops would make it sound more like a calm collected detective's thought rather than a bubbly, over-excited amateur.

Daniel

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Postby glorybee » Thu Feb 18, 2010 8:02 am

Nonny and Daniel, your own analysis of your exclamation points is precisely right, on both counts. Thanks so much for sharing them...you guys are awesome.
Jan Ackerson

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Postby srashmi » Wed Mar 03, 2010 8:30 pm

I just completed a search for exclamation points in my writing. I found 10 of them spread out over 33 stories. :oops:

I'll have to double check, but I'm sure nearly all of them were in dialogue, several of them in lines spoken by kids.

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Postby glorybee » Thu Mar 04, 2010 8:32 am

Excellent, Seema! I'd give you extra credit, but you were pretty late to class...
Jan Ackerson

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