In celebration of National Punctuation Day (it was four days ago, but who’s counting?) I’m giving away exclamation points to everyone to use as you wish. Or better yet, to not use.
During an online discussion about punctuation, a participant said she wanted one basic rule for exclamation points. My response: “If you want just one rule for exclamation points? Don’t use them.” We get so used to flinging exclamation points around in online comments and emails that we think they belong everywhere, but an exclamation point is often an unnecessary elbow nudge.
“Oh, how fun.”
“Oh, how fun!”
“Oh, how fun,” he exclaimed.
“Oh, how fun!” he exclaimed.
The exclamation in the first example is understood, so a period works just fine. The middle two examples are gramatically correct, though they do tend to poke you in the side to make sure you get the point. The exclamation point in the fourth example is redundant if you use the speaker attribute. And the speaker attribute is telling something we already know if you use the exclamation point. Of course, pointing this out will not change your ways; despite rules and helpful hints, we all have our own quirks when it comes to punctuation, and as I learned during the discussion, we will argue our points even when proven wrong.
So, use or do not use your free exclamation points. They are yours. A gift from me.