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.


Author: Rae Longest

This year marks my fiftieth year in AAUW (American Association of University Women). The Alvin chapter was begun in 1947, and as a new, green teacher to Alvin Independent School District, I joined in 1968. In the 80's we began a book group to share our love of reading, books,and fellowship with other women and girls who loved the same. We resurrected the group on-line in September of 2015. Eventually Powerful Women Readers folded as an on-line book club, but I kept the title and turned it into a blog. (See "Introduction,"first blog). This is my first experience at blogging or publishing anything and is becomes more fun with each blog posted. I am currently teaching as an adjunct at The University of Houston Clear Lake. This makes my 28th year there after three years at Alvin Community College and an almost-twenty year career as a classroom teacher with Alvin Independent School District. Reading and writing are "in my blood" just like teaching is. I hope you enjoy the blog.

7 thoughts on “TUESDAY THOUGHTS”

    1. I agree with Zinsser in the exclamation mark’s inappropriateness for college papers (like the research/argument paper I recently assigned). In novels or in e-mails, less formal submissions, using the exclamation mark could make or break the dialogue or delivery of meaning. So I agree with him and with you, literature2guy at the same time.


  1. Punctuation is a funny mistress; one never knows her best intent.

    I often use the exclamation point in casual writing, including book reviews. For me, I think it’s an animated way of writing versus talking. I don’t think it’s lack of trust in the reader as much as it is being in the moment when writing the lines.

    In formal writing, I agree; less (or none) is more.

    Liked by 1 person

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