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?