Many famed writers were no fans of the exclamation point

Last week, I wrote about the rampant overuse of the exclamation point and looked to style guides for guidance. The consensus was to use these punctuations marks sparingly.

This week I wanted to share some quotes from authors and grammar wonks who have some strong words to say about the beleaguered exclamation point.


Laughing at your own jokes

“Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Mark Twain also said the use of exclamation points was like laughing at your own humor, “all of which is very depressing, and makes one want to renounce joking and lead a better life.”


A cry for … attention

“As if by common consent, people turned to the ellipsis and the exclamation point. There must have been a reason for this. My theory is that both of these marks are ways of trying to keep the attention of the reader. One of them says, ‘Don’t go away, I haven’t finished, don’t go, don’t go,’ while the other says, ‘Listen! I’m talking to you!’” –Lynne Truss, author of “Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation”


Remember your English teacher

“In an idealized world, we would all be able to do what our English teachers told us to do, which is to write beautiful prose where enthusiasm is conveyed by word choice and grammar.” — Will Schwalbe, author of “SEND: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do It” Better



“So far as good writing goes, the use of the exclamation mark is a sign of failure. It is the literary equivalent of a man holding up a card reading ‘laughter’ to a studio audience.” — Miles Kingston, British journalist and author


A hallmark of insanity

“Five exclamation marks, the sure sign of an insane mind.” — Terry Pratchett, British author


Terrible sameness

“When you overuse it, it takes the power out of it. So what am I supposed to be excited about if it’s everywhere? If everything is exciting then nothing is exciting, because it’s all the same.” — Judy Dunn, blogger


Readers, do you agree or disagree with these authors?


This article was first posted on Ragan Communications PR Daily.


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