by Andrea Merrell @AndreaMerrell
With all the diverse forms of social media and texting, the exclamation point has become very popular in bringing emphasis to anything and everything someone is trying to say. I’ve been guilty of it myself, but the problem comes when we have the same tendency to overuse it in our writing. For all you serious writers, this is a definite no-no, so it’s time to execute the exclamation.
Execute—According to Merriam-Webster’s
- To carry out and produce what is required or expected to give validity to. To perform the fundamentals properly and skillfully.
Execute—According to Agents, Editors, and Publishers
- Kill it—wipe it out—put it to death.
Example from an Agent
To prove this point (no pun intended), let’s look at a portion of literary agent Chip McGregor’s blog post, What Drives an Editor Crazy?
Yes! Of course! Here’s one! Novelists who use exclamation points as though the period key didn’t work on their keyboard! I hate this! Really! What’s worse is the writer who needs to use several at once!!!!!
As an editor who battles with this constantly, I say a hearty “Amen!”
Are we saying you can never use exclamation points (EPs) in your writing? Absolutely not. The key is to know when and how to use them properly. They are appropriate when someone is shouting or showing extremely strong emotion.
As three-year-old Susie was about to wander into the busy street, her mother shouted, “Susie, stop!”
In most cases, writers use unnecessary EPs when they are trying to make a point (pun intended), or they are very excited and passionate about what they are sharing. I once edited a book that contained anywhere from 200-300 Eps. All but a few were deleted from this otherwise excellent book. Some publishers only allow one or two exclamations in a 50,000-word manuscript.
This is an issue that could cause immediate rejection of your manuscript by an agent, editor, or publisher. Don’t take that chance. Limit your excessive use of EPs to personal e-mails, texts, tweets, and Facebook messages (notice I said personal and not professional).
To eliminate this problem, there is an easy fix. Use strong verbs and more showing. Trust your reader to get it. If you need to emphasize a word, it’s better to use italics—just don’t go overboard. Anything in your writing that is redundant (exclamation points, italics, quotation marks, ellipses, en and em dashes, words, or phrases) will wear on your reader.
Too many exclamation points can be hazardous to your manuscript.
Andrea Merrell is Associate Editor for Christian Devotions Ministries and Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas (LPC). She is also a freelance editor and has led workshops at the Kentucky Christian Writers Conference, Writers Advance Boot Camp, and the CLASS Christian Writers Conference. Andrea’s first book, Murder of a Manuscript, is available on Amazon. Her next book, Praying for the Prodigal, will be released by LPC in 2015. As an editor, Andrea’s passion is to mentor and encourage writers, helping them to polish their manuscripts and make them as clean and professional as possible. To learn more, visit www.andreamerrell.com or www.TheWriteEditing.blogspot.com.