Ban exclamation points, and the world would have to get louder — audibly or IN PRINT.
You don’t like that idea? Simple! Use the exclamation point.
That’s a singular term, by the way, not a plural. There’s no need for repeated exclamation points. If you must express insistence, shock, horror, or other sudden emotions, use the words:
Please! I insist.
Oh, no! How horrible!
Wow! I’m just stunned.
But banning exclamation points altogether goes too far. As a former (and, I hope, future) editor, I shudder at the editing work it would take to accomplish such a ban.
And why do it? Some of the greatest moments in the greatest stories benefit from the exclamation point.
For example, take this scene from the end of Chapter 2 of “The Hound of the Baskervilles” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1901). Sherlock Holmes’ new client, Dr. Mortimer, is telling Holmes and Dr. Watson about the discovery of the body of Sir Charles Baskerville:
“There was certainly no physical injury of any kind. But one false statement was made by Barrymore at the inquest. He said that there were no traces upon the ground round the body. He did not observe any. But I did — some little distance off, but fresh and clear.”
“A man’s or a woman’s?”
Dr. Mortimer looked strangely at us for an instant, and his voice sank almost to a whisper as he answered:
“Mr. Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound!”
Would that have had the same effect on generations of readers’ spines with a matter-of-fact period? No!
So long live the exclamation point! But do use it carefully, my friends.
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Filed under: Words Worth Defending