Punctuation – Exclamation Marks Aren’t All Bad!

I happen to like the Exclamation Mark. Most writers say it denotes strong feelings or even high volume (shouting), but to me it is just my preferred alternative to the lackluster presence of a period.

As an example, here is one of my recent comment replies.  I could have written it this way:
It will be unfortunate if all your flowers get frozen.
But I wrote it this way: It will be unfortunate if all your flowers get frozen!

I’m sure you understand that I wasn’t shouting when I used the exclamation mark. Did I have real strong feelings? Not really. I just thought that frozen flowers deserved more than a quiet period.

289-exclamation-mark The QuipperyI am, of course, woefully mistaken in my use of the Exclamation Mark. Real writers have horrible things to say about people like me.

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

And all those exclamation marks, you notice? Five? A sure sign of someone who wears his underpants on his head.
– Terry Pratchett –

In the family of punctuation where the full stop is daddy and the comma is mummy, and the semicolon quietly practises the piano with crossed hands, the exclamation mark is the big attention-deficit brother who gets over-excited and breaks things and laughs too loudly.
– Lynn Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, pages 137-138 –

Lynn does, however, offer one faint hope that the exclamation mark won’t languish forever on the top left edge of the keyboard:

…it sometimes seems hurtful to suppress the exclamation mark when – after all – it doesn’t mean any harm to anyone, and is so desperately keen.
– Lynn Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, p 139 –

oval scenery

The Eggstol Mark

What to do, what to do?  I suppose I could just invent a new punctuation mark – something less dull than a period, but not as robust as an explanation mark. Maybe a nice upright oval, slightly taller than a period.  I could call it an eggstol mark, perhaps.

55 thoughts on “Punctuation – Exclamation Marks Aren’t All Bad!

  1. I love your idea of a new punctuation mark–I think it’s high-time we update the rules, too, as I also love exclamation points and sometimes agonize over whether I’ve gone too crazy with them! (Is there really such a thing as too crazy with exclamation marks?) I doubt it.

    Can you tell me where I might find an ‘eggstol’ on my keyboard? I’ve searched for hours (okay, minutes…okay,okay, seconds) to no avail. Maybe you will need to market new keyboards next! (See, another timely point to insert an exclamation point–to denote that the person had a terrific idea.)

    Thanks for the laugh.


    • You are right Sylvia – it is not a good idea to invent a symbol that doesn’t already exist on the keyboard. Perhaps some of my readers can suggest a font or Alt Symbol for an upright egg.


  2. Hi,
    I very rarely use an exclamation mark, but I do notice a lot of people do. To be honest it doesn’t worry me one way or the other. I love your explanation about the frozen flowers, as that is exactly how I would of taken the sentence.

    I love your exclamation mark, how very clever incorporating the picture into it. Well done, and well thought out. 🙂


  3. I was once an exclamation point junkie, but over time, managed to console myself with those boring little dots we like to call periods. Now my newest addiction seems to be the trailing three dots …


  4. I cannot believe you are not more concerned about the flowers. Clearly this is a three exclamation mark sentence if ever there was one… And now that you have me thinking about it, why do I always use three periods after all my sentences…???!!!
    (OH, crap, I actually do use triple periods all the time… just check my blog…For crying out loud)…


  5. I am addicted to both the exclamation point and the ellipsis (that’s my new word of the day, you may have to look it up!). My punctuation therapy begins soon.


    • Hi Judy – I’m not sure you need therapy. Your addiction isn’t evident at all in your comment. (I sure wanted to use an exclamation mark after the word comment.)


  6. I was once told by a music teacher, we must first learn the rules of how to do things right. Once learnt we could then break the rules. But me, I dont know the rules, dont care about rules. So I play the guitar how I feel, and write the way I feel and speak. Exclamation marks go any where any time!! lol 🙂 love your post thanx, oh sorry meant to say Thank you.


    • Well cobbies, I can see you are a rule breaker, but I appreciate your willingness to use Thank you instead of thanx when you visit my blog. I’m not a big fan of spelling violations.


  7. One of your funniest and most creative posts!!!!!!

    Loved the Lynn Truss quotes– absolute killers!!!!!!

    Your EP-frame was wunderbar, and the egg-stol made me cluck with vigor!!!!

    Wunnaful post!!!!!!

    P.S. Marks are worth exclaiming about, that’s just the way we are!


  8. I just love the exclamation point! I find it better than LOL or worse ROFLMAO..eeks..
    Your post gave me good deep chuckles and a new book I must have. Thank you beyond words ! oops there it is again. My bookshelves are full of grammar books, books about the English language and fun storybooks that give logophiles just one more view into the whathaveyous of language.
    Thank again, I really love reading your posts
    Ta Ta for now! Cathy the Bagg Lady


  9. People who bad-mouth the exclamation mark are the same kind of kill-joys who doesn’t want people to have fun dancing in groups like to the Macarena and the same type of negative-nellies who spread the ugly rumor that Pixie-dust comes from the south end of a north bound Pixie!
    I’m so miffed at the snarky punctuation and grammar snobs. Sometimes I want to write a chastising post about them, but I don’t because my grammar and punctuation would bring joyful storms of mockery down on me from them saying that I had proved their point. 😉
    I think an exclamation mark is a peach of a charming way to show that you care about the subject and it has a bit more significance than a dead-stop period gives! 🙂


  10. I’m with you. I love exclamation marks and I don’t think they mean I’m shouting. ALL CAPS MEANS I’M SHOUTING!!!!! THANK YOU FOR THIS VERY CLEVER POST!!!!


  11. After having my exclamation mark taped over so I couldn’t use it anymore, I began using a comma shotgun to spray poignant pauses all over my work. Readers don’t like that either. Soon my whole keyboard will be taped off. Darn (*%$*# @$*#^) It.


    • Hi Barb – On many keyboards, the punctuation must share an abode with the number keys, so your ingenious taping scheme would create a real hardship for the numbers, who really don’t deserve to be exiled.
      My, you use very colourful language!


  12. Since there is nothing else going on in the world, naturally, we should turn our attention to the debate over the exclamation mark. I, for one, will continue to feel free to use that mark whenever I darn well please. With no apologies!!! Funny post, Margie. Loved the quotes!


    • Hi CE – You noticed how quiet the world is right now too! I’m glad it is that way, because it gives me a chance to bring the really important issues to everyone’s attention.


  13. 1) As mentioned, I think ALL CAPS is shouting. Exclamation points just mean you’re enthusiastic.
    2) I’m also giving the dots too much of a workout. I’m heading for a total ellipse of the period.
    3) I’m increasingly concerned about my increasing use of smiley faces – almost worse than the exclamation points for all the snotty reasons you already gave.
    4) Your exclamation photo and RSS pictures are blurry to me. What does it mean, Dr. Margie?
    5) pouringmyartout, FYI, I did a post about the day (coming soon) when both punctuation and capitalization are abandoned, entitled “Will PAC-Man Gobble Up The King’s English?”. Don’t usually plug my own stuff, but it seems eerily coincidental that we both thought of the EXACT same combination of abandoned parts of English.
    6) Egg-stol = ha ha ha!


    • Hi pegoleg – “Total Ellipse of the period” – that’s pretty funny.
      I have never used a smiley face, so it isn’t an addiction I will have to be cured of. (Chocolate, however, that is another story.)
      Blurry photos – must be something wrong at your end – they look fine here.
      Will PAC-Man Gobble Up The King’s English” – I’ve added the link – excellent post!


    • Hi Lorna – Well, I think the votes go to the continued overuse of the exclamation point. Of course, those who would vote to eliminate it all together either don’t read my blog, or don’t comment. I’m thinking they don’t read it.
      Yes, Lynn Truss is a wonderful read.


    • I don’t know, winsomebella – I don’t see an exclamation mark in your comment anywhere. Are you sure you are a prolific user of the exclamation mark, or do you simply think it but show the proper restraint?


  14. I also have overworked the exclamation mark. As a highly excitable personality, those who know me, know that I speak like I write. However, if it is serious topic I try to get a sentence the respect it deserves.
    Yes, ma’am. I too, am busted.


  15. Seems to me the experts are always changing their minds about what is correct and what is not. I like your eggstol because then I want have to follow the staid period with an emoticon. 🙂


    • Hi Inner Chick – doesn’t seem strange at all to me. I think it is wonderful when punctuation marks get the attention they deserve. Why should the letters and numbers get all the glory!


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