So What’s The Problem With Punctuation?

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.

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About Steve

An author since the age of 13 years, writing again dominates my activities. My "Imagineer-ing" blog is my primary site. Also: Beginner knitter since November 2010. Favourite knitting techniques: cable and lace. Beginner cross stitcher. Beginner jewellery maker. With the promotion of self publication and all the other work that has been going on here, Dad decided around 2am this morning (22/11/2013) that it was time to begin his next adventure. He was seen off earlier the previous evening by myself, my brother, my sister in law, and my sister, as well as his wife (our mum), and an enigmatic being known only as A Lorraine. After this time of story telling, laughing, crying, joking and mickey taking, we saw how tired both mum and dad were, and we decided to leave them under the (sometimes) gentle care of The Lorraine. When Dad found the timetable for his travels, he let Mum know gently, which woke her from her drowsing, then, with the same gentleness he showed in this universe, he boarded his favourite mode of transport, the Interdimensional Steam Train, and set off with a smile and a wave. For those of us closest, that smile was a reminder that his pain has ended, and the wave, an indicator that he will pop in to all those that knew him, from time to time. Usually at the most inconvenient and in opportune moments he can. While we are sad that he is no longer here, we are happy he now has no pain, and is experiencing more extraordinary things that his writers mind will be frantically weaving into a new story. Posted by Son Damien

2 thoughts on “So What’s The Problem With Punctuation?

  1. There seems to be a backlash about the use of the exclamation point, which I attribute to its overuse, especially in social media. But it has its uses. I like it!

    • Thanks Laura 🙂
      I freely admit that I may, at times, get a little carried away using punctuation, when writing casually. But then, like most people, I do all sorts of things wrong then LOL! I haven’t, as yet, been so addicted to social media expression that I find myself using emoticons and such in “proper” writing 😉 I actually did a quick scan of several books that I’m reading, or have read, by very successful and well respected authors, and all use the exclamation point as an emphatic 🙂

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