Writing Glitch #74

Today’s glitch:


Too many exclamation points! They make the writing look weird! They also make the characters seem overly excitable!

On the other hand, an exclamation point would at least not be incorrect after true, whereas the question mark definitely is. Do not use a question mark unless it’s actually a question. Expressing disbelief is not the same as asking a question.

Sometimes it is appropriate to use both a dash and either a question mark or an exclamation point, but only when the sentence is cut off abruptly, and then you’d use the dash before the other punctuation: “What the –? This is the most ridiculous –!”

I corrected everything in the sample except the overuse of exclamation points:

“Come quickly! The borders to the other world have opened!”

“Surely this cannot be true! They have been sealed for centuries!”

(When — please note that I do not say if — there is occasion for a similar conversation in my own fiction, you may rest assured that the characters involved will not be so… exclaimy.)


About Thomas Weaver

I’m a writer and editor who got into professional editing almost by accident years ago when a friend from university needed someone to copyedit his screenplay about giant stompy robots (mecha). Having discovered that I greatly enjoy this kind of work, I’ve been putting my uncanny knack for grammar and punctuation, along with an eclectic mental collection of facts, to good use ever since as a Wielder of the Red Pen of Doom. I'm physically disabled, and for the past several years, I’ve lived with my smugly good-looking twin Paul, who writes military science fiction and refuses to talk about his military service because he can’t. Sometimes Paul and I collaborate on stories, and sometimes I just edit whatever he writes. It's worked out rather well so far. My list of non-writing-related jobs from the past includes librarian, art model, high school teacher, science lab gofer… Although I have no spouse or offspring to tell you about, I do have six cats. (The preferred term is "Insane Cat Gentleman.") I currently spend my time blogging, reading, editing, and fending off cats who like my desk better than my twin’s.
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