Exclamation points and periods…

I don’t know how to classify this blog-post. Is it a What-the-tuck trend? Is it a general writing style question? Is it a rant? I will leave it up to any reader to decide.

Having said that (and this is being composed at the keyboard (which is always dangerous for many reasons) so this may be rambling and incoherent here and there, but I digress), I am a bit confused about the difference in the use between exclamation points and periods. And how often to use each specifically (and why).

To have some context to these questions, concerns, etc, I’ll back up a bit with a bit of history. I have read enough reviews of books in which different reviewers state and/or complain that the “exclamation point was used a lot!!!” That the use of the exclamation point “was overused and shouldn’t have been” are just a few examples, but they aren’t the only ones I have read with that observation. Okay, I know that each review is only one person’s opinion, but how many constitutes too many? Like the old Fletcher’s Castoria commercials describing prunes (sorry, the now politically correct term is dried plums) as “Is one enough; is six too many?”…how many exclamation points are too many?

Are exclamation remarks only to be used when there is strong emotion expressed in dialogue? Is there ever a place for strong feeling in describing an event or person or setting so that an exclamation point is or could be necessary to enhancing the story? As a general rule, I don’t expect to see them in nonfiction like textbooks; however, I can understand the use in some memoirs. As I recall, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina was filled with exclamation points, but I digress.

This leads me now to the use of periods and not just the use of them in declarative sentences (as opposed to an interrogative sentence that generally requires a question mark), but in the growing trend of using the period as a possible substitute for exclamation marks (because of being blasted in reviews for using too many of the aforementioned punctuation mark, perhaps?). I read enough books that I notice repetition in styles and trends (the green-eyed characters, messy ponytails and buns, tucking hair behind ears, etc. to name a few examples) in novels, and I note them. Although genre writing of romance, suspense, mystery, and YA are filled with these What-the-tuck trends most regularly, they have also slipped into general fiction and literary novels as well, but I digress.

Back to the subject, which is the use of periods as substitutes for exclamation points. I have noticed that many of the genres I read, particularly YA, chick-lit, and romance, particularly contemporary romance, has characters who think or say aloud, “Oh. My. God.” or “You. Did. Not.” or some other iteration of strong expression (or at least that is my impression). Frankly, I am finding them more often, almost in every (genre) novel. I have to ask: When did this become fashionable? Moreover, why did it become the dare-I-say-it* the WTT trend? Is it because of the exclamation point backlash? In other words, why has the period become so overused? Is it because the period has better union representation than the exclamation point or that periods are less expensive than the other punctuation mark?

This inquiring reader would like to know…

* Another thing being seen in many novels is this trend of combining of a whole phrase of words joined together by hyphens as I did here. Yep, a bit annoying, isn’t it?

About pedometergeek

A pharmacist by profession, a haiku poet by nature, I read and write. I have a book of haiku, Ohayo Haiku, and another somewhat alternative haiku book, Three Breaths, but write other genres. I also read...lots of novels! My favorite is, and remains, Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged but I am also a big Harry Potter fan. I truly am a pedometer geek strapping on my pedometer as soon as I awaken.
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4 Responses to Exclamation points and periods…

  1. evanatiello says:

    Love this! (oops… oh darn, What-was-I-thinking) Yes, it’s all about unions and bargains. Great observation.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. julespaige says:

    Really. How much more does and exclamation point cost? I do think though that one is enough to denote surprise, demand or command. Isn’t that what they are for. As for the repetitive use of the period… well I know I am at fault for that. Maybe. But doesn’t that have another name… an ellipse! I’m kind of glad I don’t know grammar and tend to write small verse. I don’t think I’d make a very good reviewer at all. More power to you my friend! 🙂


  3. I use the ellipse all the time. Those I don’t mind as (to me, any way) they are often representative of the flights and /or pauses of thought. The ‘uhs’ if you will that are not said. As for the exclamation points, I have seen one or two throughout a chapter and then a reviewer says that there are too many. To me, that is not a large number. Now Anna Karenina had lots of exclamation points (I think I counted ten or more on one page, and this was…now, that’s excessive!) throughout the novel.
    As for reviewing books, I enjoy the process especially if I really like the book. It is more difficult if I don’t, however. Yet, in any book, there are positives that can be found. While I am sure I make more than my own fair share of grammatical errors, I really try hard to have clean, grammatically correct pieces with cogent information. I know I blunder, but if I catch it later, I will correct the errors (praying they weren’t cringe-worthy at that). 😉


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