I’m not a big fan of rant blog posts. They get old fast, especially when every blogger on the block is doing them.
But problematic punctuation? Well, that pushes all my buttons. What can I say? I’m a writer.
Three months ago, I wondered who the first person was who put an apostrophe in where it didn’t belong. In the comments section, you all had your own grammar and punctuation peeves.
My friend from Australia, Di Mace of Word Swords, coined a term that I absolutely loved: Wanton Exclamation Point. It is the perfect way to describe the misappropriation of a punctuation mark that used to have a clear and focused purpose: to tell us that the author was excited—or angry or astounded—about something.
Today, I just finished reading a blog post that contained, I kid you not, 18 exclamation points. The crazy part of me had to do the math. The post was 55 sentences long, so that figured out to be 33 percent of the sentences ending with an exclamation point.
That is like screaming at your reader in every third sentence!
Couldn’t resist ending the above sentence with an exclamation point. But you will notice that—except for my slightly sarcastic headline and the silly section at the end of this post— it’s the only one I put in this entire piece.
Why? Because the exclamation mark is supposed to be reserved for strong feelings and/or high volume. High volume, as in shouting.
Who is this Wanton Exclamation Point?
If Wanton Exclamation Point were a character, she would be that provocative can-can dancer dressed in red in an old west saloon (red, because she wants your attention). Or the overdressed, excessively friendly woman on the bar stool. You know the type.
The first online dictionary I checked, Dictionary.com, had the most perfect definitions of the word “wanton.”
…careless; reckless; without regard for what is right.
…unrestrained; loose, especially a woman.
…extravagantly or excessively luxurious.
…wasteful or squandering.
Fits Ms. Wanton Exclamation Point to a tee, doesn’t it? Because the overuse of this once special punctuation mark is careless, reckless and extravagant. To the point of making our eyes glaze over and confusing us about what the writer is really feeling.
Cutting Wanton Exclamation Point down to size
We would all benefit from reading the stuff we write out loud, paying particular attention to the punctuation. Go ahead, if you can do it with a straight face, and read the paragraph below (or anything else you happen to have handy) in a state of screaming, high-pitched excitement—as the exclamation at the end of each sentence indicates:
“You told us and we listened! You said you needed shorter, easier-to-understand videos! Our production team designed this special WordPress Starter set just for you! It’s like having a WordPress expert sitting alongside of you all the way! Click here to see a sample video! And if you order in the next 48 hours, you get 30% off! Tell your friends! This deal won’t last! One order per customer, please!”
Sounds kind of silly, doesn’t it?
Have you run into Wanton Exclamation Point in your travels in the blogosphere?
Do you have any strategies for making her behave herself?