F. Scott Fitzgerald is one of those writers whose writing style I didn’t like as a teen but I grew to really appreciate as an adult. His writing is beautiful, poetic and often tinged with a deep sadness. This quote on Goodreads though, made me smile.
“Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.” -F. Scott Fitzgerald
When I saw this quote, I started to re-examine my own writing. Do I use too many exclamation points? I thought. I think I do tend to go straight for the exclamation point. Instinctively though, I know they’re not always the best option. They almost feel…unnecessary…and overwhelming…
Exclamation points in dialogue can also make it seem like your character is yelling:
“I do not like avocados!”
I can see what Fitzgerald is saying. Exclamation points are like laughing at your own joke: it can make for an awkward and embarrassing situation.
Using too many exclamation points not only affects your readers’ perception of you as a writer but it makes reading harder. Exclamation points, like many punctuation marks, are best used sparingly in their appropriate context.
Exclamation points add a certain emphasis but so do italics, ellipses, caps, adjectives, adverbs and even words themselves. Avoiding overuse of exclamation marks means we have to work harder to find creative ways to emphasize certain words, passages or dialogue.
This is great advice from Fitzgerald because it reminds us that we should pay attention to small aspects of writing, down to how we use punctuation to emphasize our writing.