This Tuesday finds me thinking about grading proposals for the final paper and trying to remember if I told the students I would be grading off for punctuation (It does not count for a grade) or not to worry about it. Once I start the actual grading, it will become obvious what I actually said.
Looking over Zinsser’s On Writing Well, which I have chosen for my textbook, I am seeing if other punctuation besides the comma and the semi-colon should be squeezed into the time we have left and have come across Zinsser’s words about the exclamation mark:
“Don’t use it unless you must to achieve a certain effect. It has a gushy aura, the breathless excitement of a debutante commenting on an event that was exciting only to her: ‘Daddy says I must have had too much champagne!’ ‘But honestly, I could have danced all night!’ We have all shared a number of sentences in which an exclamation point has hit us over the head with how cute or wonderful something was. Instead, construct your sentences so that the order of the words will put the emphasis where you want it. Also resist using an exclamation point to notify the reader that you are making a joke or being ironic. ‘It never occurred to me that the water pistol might be loaded!’ Readers are annoyed by your reminder that this was a comical moment. They are also robbed of the pleasure of finding it funny on their own. Humor is best achieved by understatement, and there’s nothing subtle about an exclamation point.”
Good advice for us all.