The Suitcase Lady

Exclamation!

November 19, 2019, 8:50 pm

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The masterful writer, Elmore Leonard, said that a writer should, “Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.”

I aspire to be a good writer but admit to totally disregarding this advice. I love exclamation points! Life is a wondrous, exciting adventure and these little symbols are needed to emphasize that fact.

My love of that punctuation mark makes me incredibly envious of everyone writing in Spanish. These lucky people are allowed exclamation points both before and after a sentence, the first one standing on its head. How brilliant is this!

Yet grammarians of English universally lament that the exclamation point is grossly overused. Since I’m a fan of that punctuation mark… really; who can get excited about a semicolon… I searched to see if it had any defenders.

Thomas Wolfe was not shy about his use of that mark and said to his critics, “People complain about my exclamation points, but I honestly think that is how people think. I don’t think people think in essays, it’s one exclamation point after another.”

Well said, but Elmore Leonard, despite his admonition, might have given the exclamation point its best compliment. In his career, Leonard wrote over 40 novels totaling 3.4 million words. His self proclaimed goal would have been 102 exclamation marks for his entire career. The number he actually used was 1,651, or 16 times his limit.

So there!

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