I’m curious. I recently had a review written about one of my ebooks which has left me wondering. When being taught the use of punctuation, we were introduced to all of the punctuation characters. One of these was the exclamation point (!). Now, this reviewer suggested removing this character from my keyboard, asserting that it was frowned upon by publishers.
What is the problem with this humble character? Has it committed some unpardonable sin? I was taught that it was an ’emphatic’, adding weight to a sentence. I would, perhaps, accept it was superfluous if it didn’t occur in ordinary spoken English, but it does. I, certainly, have heard people speak emphatically. I haven’t heard them being taken to task for doing so. Are we looking, then, at an artificial situation? Is it a target because it may be overused? Does it represent a lack of skill in writing, somehow?
Personally, I can’t say I’m fond of the extra words necessary to replace it. For example: “I won’t help you,” he exclaimed instead of “I won’t help you!”. The use of the emphatic in the latter hasn’t stolen anything from the dialog. Is it that the former option helps the writer meet a word count requirement? In the former, it seems that the dialog lacks true emphasis, while the latter leaves no doubt about the passion behind the statement.
Apparently, and I can’t corroborate this, publishers refer to this humble character as a screamer. Why? Is it, perhaps, some historic difficulty from the old typesetting days, when it was perhaps confused with other characters? If so, then there’s no excuse for it these days.
I’m afraid that this aversion to the emphatic is truly artificial and smacks of making an “unbreakable rule”. I don’t believe that any rule is unbreakable. I also believe that how we write should be both personal and reflect how the majority of the modern world views language. If rules were cast in stone, then we’d probably all be writing in Shakespearean English! The simple fact is that language changes, and the method of expression changes.
I’m sure that there are people who are vehemently opposed to the use of the emphatic. People who will be horrified, scandalised, at the suggestion that we should be able to use any means of expression at our disposal, including using the emphatic. I’m hoping, however, that there are at least some writers who might actually agree with me. It would be pleasant to know that I’m not isolated.