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The He-who-must-not-be-named of punctuation

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The He-who-must-not-be-named of punctuation

There are several things that I feel strongly about. Matthew Perry wearing a baseball cap backward to portray a younger character. Posers who say, “Silas Marner? Oh yes, lovely book. I don’t remember much of it. I read it when I was four.” People who gobble up the triple word score squares on a scrabble board with words like “quiz.” Yet one thing beats all. Exclamation marks (or depending on how cool you are, exclamation points.)

These things should never have been invented. They’re like that bumptious guy at a party, who thinks he has a great future in stand up comedy and decides to test all his material on you. Fitzgerald said that exclamation points were a way of laughing at your own joke. Writers the world over, heed this man. If you don’t listen to Fitzgerald, who are you going to listen to? Do you like laughing at your own jokes? Do you want to be that guy?

Most feature stories I’ve read use the offending thing at least once, thus managing effectively, to worsen an average-but-bearable story in one fell swoop.

“Everyday Anusha Mikhail wakes up at Four am, packs her kids lunch for school, writes a page of her journal, feeds the cat, does an hour of power yoga and then makes daisies out of sunshine and scattersthem hither and thither. Talk about a superwoman!”

Whenever I encounter a sentence that ends in an exclamation mark, it makes me grind my teeth in fury. My hair, if I may use a Wodehouse, stands on end like quills upon the fretful porcupine. I tell myself it doesn’t matter, that there are other things to live for – More television by Aaron Sorkin, A suitable girl by Vikram Seth, Community season four. I marshal my inner Hyde, shrug and say stoically “whatever. That’s cool.” But the words come out as incoherent snorts.

One exclamation mark is bad enough but there are some chuckleheads who use *shudder* more than one, as in:-

“Gary McDonald sure is a hard taskmaster!!!!!”

Or worse, the kind who sit the fence or try to be ironic with it.

“And there I was, drenched head to toe with undistilled potassium permanganate (!)”

Exclamation marks are a poor cover for bad writing. They’re a lump of cream-based concealer on a throbbing pimple. They hide nothing. They’re sensationalist but unsubstantial. They’re all sizzle, no steak. Keep them away from me. They make me violent.

– Sheena

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