Mad about ex­cla­ma­tion marks!

‘ Five ex­cla­ma­tion marks, the sure sign of an in­sane mind.’ – Terry Pratch­ett

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIVING - star2@ thes­tar. com. my Mary Schneider

SOME­TIMES, I re­ceive e- mails and text mes­sages with noth­ing but ex­cla­ma­tion marks ( lots of them) at the end of al­most ev­ery sen­tence. I might find the odd ques­tion mark ran­domly thrown into the mix, but no full stops. It’s as if the senders only took one gram­mar les­son at school, the one cov­er­ing ex­cla­ma­tion marks, and didn’t go any fur­ther.

“Th­ese look cute!” one of th­ese lovers of ex­cla­ma­tion marks must have said, dur­ing that lone gram­mar les­son. “Peo­ple will surely pay at­ten­tion when I use th­ese as my de­fault punc­tu­a­tion. I can also use a lot of them when I want to em­pha­sise some­thing funny or un­usual! So peo­ple will know to pay even more at­ten­tion! Life is too short to waste on un­nec­es­sary punc­tu­a­tion!!!!!”

Peo­ple work­ing in the pub­lish­ing in­dus­try of­ten call an ex­cla­ma­tion mark a screamer – a term that sug­gests this type of punc­tu­a­tion is used to give em­pha­sis to words that would nor­mally be screamed. Words like HELP! STOP! THIEF! and WILL YOU STOP WITH THE EX­CLA­MA­TION MARKS!

Pub­lish­ing peo­ple are also fond of say­ing, “All em­pha­sis is no em­pha­sis.”

In other words, if you try to give em­pha­sis to ev­ery­thing in a mes­sage, then ev­ery­thing is given equal im­por­tance and noth­ing has em­pha­sis any more. It’s the same thing when it comes to wear­ing jew­ellery.

For ex­am­ple, if you’re wear­ing a sim­ple black dress, it’s great to match it with a state­ment piece such as a show- stop­ping neck­lace OR a pair of large earrings that stand out. Peo­ple will no­tice the sin­gle piece be­cause it doesn’t have to com­pete with any­thing else for at­ten­tion. But the mo­ment you get car­ried away and overdo it with, say, a glit­ter­ing neck­lace that’s so bright it can be seen by the as­tro­nauts in the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion; along with a pair of earrings big­ger than the chan­de­liers in the White­house ball­room; and a ring that would make Mariah Carey’s en­gage­ment ring look the size of a tiny bird­seed, it will all end badly. The net ef­fect of all that BLING! will cause peo­ple to scream out: “HELP! I’m BLIND!”

Not that look­ing at too many ex­cla­ma­tion marks will make you go blind, but they’ll cer­tainly make you wish you were.

The au­thor F. Scott Fitzger­ald felt strongly about this too, be­cause he is cred­ited with say­ing, “Cut out all th­ese ex­cla­ma­tion points. An ex­cla­ma­tion point is like laugh­ing at your own joke.”

I usu­ally laugh at my own jokes ( pa­thetic, I know) but only when I’m sure some­one else is laugh­ing first. But when it comes to the writ­ten word, once you’ve added those ex­cla­ma­tion marks, there’s no tak­ing them back. And no amount of punc­tu­a­tion is go­ing to make a lame com­ment hi­lar­i­ous.

Here is an ex­am­ple of some­thing you may or may not find funny, de­pend­ing on your knowl­edge of English proverbs: My next- door neigh­bour fell out of her bath­room win­dow while clean­ing it. She was stand­ing on some books, stacked up in the bot­tom of her laun­dry bas­ket, when she lost her bal­ance and ended up on the pave­ment two sto­ries below, break­ing both her legs. I think she learnt an im­por­tant les­son from this: Don’t put all your legs in one bas­ket!!!!!

The punc­tu­a­tion at the end of this short tale will prob­a­bly have the late Terry Pratch­ett turn­ing in his grave.

You see, the fa­mous au­thor once said: “Five ex­cla­ma­tion marks, the sure sign of an in­sane mind.”

Don’t worry if you are now clas­si­fied as be­ing in­sane. You’re most cer­tainly not alone.

Whether a sen­tence needs an ex­cla­ma­tion mark or not is a mat­ter of judg­ment. Per­haps it’s bet­ter to let the re­cip­i­ents of your mes­sages be the judge, in­stead of adding a host of ex­cla­ma­tion marks onto the end and ex­pos­ing your­self as the owner of a dis­eased mind.

If you can’t go cold turkey by keep­ing your fin­ger off that ex­cla­ma­tion mark while writ­ing, you might want to wean your­self off grad­u­ally by cut­ting back. If you must em­pha­sise some­thing, make sure you’re em­pha­sis­ing the right sen­tence, and limit your­self to one punc­tu­a­tion mark at the end of each sen­tence.

Try to avoid some­thing like the fol­low­ing: “Last night, Ge­orge Clooney stabbed me in the bum. With a steak knife!”

Not only will re­cip­i­ents no­tice the use of the ex­cla­ma­tion mark, but they will also won­der why it wasn’t placed at the end of the first sen­tence in­stead of the se­cond. As it stands, the reader gets the im­pres­sion that be­ing stabbed in the bum by Ge­orge is com­mon­place – as if Ge­orge is a se­rial stab­ber of bums. How­ever, be­ing stabbed with a steak knife is some­thing un­usual or shock­ing.

I think all th­ese ex­cla­ma­tion marks are hav­ing some sort of ef­fect on me!!!!!

Check out Mary on Face­book at www. face­book. com/ mary. schneider. writer

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.