Sunday, 5 September 2010

Kill All Exclamation Marks!!!

'Goodness!' Mrs Oliphant said.  'I appear to have spilt my tea!'
'Surely not!' Gladys replied, peering at the tea cloth.  'I can't see any mark!'
'But there is!' Mrs Oliphant persisted.
'There isn't!'
'There is!'
'Well, maybe,' Gladys conceded. 'But it's a very small drip!!!'

It should be clear from the dialogue if something is truly dramatic, rather than using the exclamation mark to spice it up like chilli powder sprinkled on yesterday's mashed potato.  The conversation above is not dramatic, and no adding !!! will make it so.  If anything, it draws attention to the weakness of the drama.  

Sarah's Golden Rule:  Three exclamation marks per novel is the maximum allowed. 


Ann Patey said...

I saw a Tweet today. 'The exclamation mark is the new full stop!'

(Don't worry I always follow my Tutor's advice.)

badas2010 said...

You struck home here, must admit I do use it sometimes, probably too much; so I'm only allowed three per novel! Blimey, I feel hamstrung!

Sarah Duncan said...

All I can say is !!! And that's your lot!

We-e-e-ll, I might let you use more than 3!, but really it should be clear from the circumstances and the dialogue if something is said in an exclaiming sort of way.

Try taking them all out - do a global edit - and see what the ms looks like without them. I bet it looks and sounds better.