Thursday, May 24, 2007

Syntactical Freedom!!

For years, I told my students that a writer is granted only one--maybe two!--exclamation marks in her life. I highly doubt, I'd tell them, that you want to use that single mark in your freshman year of college. Save it! I yelled. Save yourself!

But why was I so afraid of the exclamation mark? I must admit: I'm an exclaimer. If I were transcribed over the course of the day, the transcript would be filled with exclamation marks. Cody, breakfast! Cody! Or perhaps with the interrobang:
Cody?! Still though, for years, I was afraid. Maybe it was college? The blase college student shan't use such wild modes of expression. (But then the inevitible shift!) In the past year or so, I can't get enough of them. I use them, use them, use them! That staunch vertical! That emphatic dot! Perhaps putting all of my markings in a single syntactical basket is getting me nowhere. I'm feeling, today, a bit trapped. Sure, four exclamation marks might make a window, but a whole line of them, and you've got a jail. Maybe...I need to stop transcribing in my head. I need to let the way the sun is shining through my blinds right now (!!!!!!!) just be the sun shining through my blinds.


miriam rose said...
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miriam rose said...

Good morning, exclaimer!

Exclamation points are like potato chips.

Lays: You can't eat just one.
Pringles: Once you pop, the fun don't stop.

"That staunch vertical!" is addictive...and contagious.

I really started using them about a year ago, when High 5 Tickets to the Arts hired me to write/produce their weekly teen newsletter. Many a High 5 staff person uses the glorious "!" to denote enthusiasm for his/her teen audience. And I started doing it too.

From there, they sort of seeped into my other writing a teeny (whoa, bad pun) bit; but never, never the multiple exclamation point! I don't know why, but seeing "!!!!!!" just seems...well, tacky.

The aversion has gotten me in trouble. Once, in Writing the Essay, I suggested to someone that her "!!!!!" would be better as just "!".

"NO," she spat months later, bringing up the incident in a completely unrelated conversation. "It's ACTUALLY a STYLISTIC thing."