I danced with my daddy at my debutante ball in 1975. Being Baptists, I’m afraid we didn’t do much more than step on each other’s feet.
If I were a beginning writer, I might write the following about that evening:
Learn to be a professional writer and enroll in our Writing Essentials course. Your dream starts now.
The night was a beginning and an end!!! A farewell to childhood, a welcoming of new horizons! An occasion to put on my best, invest in a few formal manners, learn how to curtsey!! If I’d been a little less giddy, I might have appreciated these things!!!
Nothing exposes a beginning writer faster than an overdose of punctuation, specifically exclamation points. Take them out and your content is improved 100 percent.
Consider exclamation points as a president’s ability to launch an air strike—use them with the same deliberation and reserve. Be sure the effect will be worth the big guns. Words are supposed to do the work of evoking emotion, not punctuation (!), ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, or bold and colored fonts.
When you choose words, choose hunky ones. Don’t opt for spindly verbs that require an adverb to prop them up. You might need an adverb on occasion, but they should, like calling in the military, be reluctantly-used. I teach my writing classes to say “Boo, hiss” every time I say “adverb.”
In one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes, Elaine is dating and editing an author named Jake Jarmel. When he takes a phone message about a friend having a baby and doesn’t use an exclamation point, Elaine is peeved that he doesn’t appreciate how important the baby is to—well, women everywhere. To demonstrate her displeasure, she peppers his manuscript with exclamation points, bombing the thing to smithereens. Ker-pow! Ka-boom! Ka-blewy! Her boss and Jake Jarmel are not amused. And neither will your editor be if you follow Elaine’s example.
Search and destroy
So do yourself—and your editor—a favor. Go through your work in progress and eliminate every exclamation point, unless it’s the rare appropriate one. Your manuscript will begin to have that professional polish.
Nearly four million copies of Angela Hunt’s books have sold worldwide. She is the best-selling author of more than 100 works ranging from picture books and nonfiction books to novels. Her website is www.angelahuntbooks.com