Narrative Writing


Exclamation Marks

Student writers often overuse exclamation marks, especially when writing short stories. What they don't realize is that an exclamation mark anywhere in a paragraph of dialogue adds emphasis to all the surrounding sentences, both forward and back. Consider the following examples:

The reader gets it. Jenny's lines are spoken with urgency. And it really doesn't matter whether the exclamation mark is placed at the end of her first sentence, or at the end of the second. However, placing an exclamation mark at the end of both sentences tends to look amateurish. You wouldn't want to write it like this.

It's hard to convince middle school students that they use too many exclamation marks (and I'll admit that I sometimes overuse them myself!). But you don't have to take my word for it. Do a Google search for:

You'll find hundreds of articles like this one:

Read enough of these articles, and you'll eventually conclude, like I did:

Did you know?

There is evidence that exclamation marks are becoming more common, thanks, no doubt, to the influence of text messages and email. For example, in texts and emails, it has become common to indicate a friendly tone by writing something like this:

  • Have a great day!

Still, I think you'd be wise to think twice before you use an exclamation mark. Don't overuse them!!!!!


Lesson Steps

  1. Re-read your short story.
  2. Take out any unnecessary exclamation marks (and most of them are probably unnecessary).
  3. Never end a sentence with multiple exclamation marks!!!!!!!!!! (Yeah, like that.)

Instructions for the Quiz

Answer the questions.