Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 4, 1957

Unrestrained Use Of The Exclamation Point!

Wm. E. Wallace, Owensboro, Kentucky

When the teacher asked the little boy for an example of an exclamatory sentence, the following was his enthusiastic answer; "Sic 'em Fido!" Well, "Fido" would understand by the tone of voice what the little fellow meant — and you know about how the lad said it because of my use of (!).

When we have points to express in our conversation, we raise our voices in a commanding, forceful manner. Some folk ran raise their voice a little higher or louder than others, and with a few frowns and snarls they can brow-beat their fellows. When everyone uses these verbal exclamation point tactics, at the same time, in the same place, on the same point, bedlam results. I know some fellows who use the verbal exclamation point in every type conversation. They may be talking about a wee ewe lamb out in a posey patch — and it sounds somewhat like this: "The little wee! ewe! lamb was a tripping through the posey patch!!, a looking for her mammy!, crying in a pitiful!, mournful!!, manner!!!"

Sometimes characters talk like that because they think they have to be heard. Some may be afflicted with an inferiority complex and want to hide it. Others are just plain boisterous or mean. Still others just like to bark — they seldom bite.

In writing, a man who has an axe to grind or a hobby to ride, or an opponent to lash, will often get right near licentious in the use of (!). And those who read what he has to say get the impression the author has gone berserk, or is beside himself in his anger, or maybe he just wants to make every thing he says exclamatory. Then when he does have something to write worth emphasizing, it falls flat. You learn a lot about a writer in noticing his use of the (!). 'When you see this (!!!), or (!!!!!) you can't help but wonder (!).

There are certainly times and seasons where the free use of the exclamation point is in order. (See Matthew 23.) A discerning individual will know when and how to use it.

Why all this? Oh, I don't know — I was just reflecting, and thinking about some characters I know who are pretty barky in speech and in pen.