writing quotes

Wednesday Words of Wisdom: F. Scott Fitzgerald

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:

“Hey, Mary!”

“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.

2 thoughts on “Wednesday Words of Wisdom: F. Scott Fitzgerald”

  1. Funny thing, I was just thinking that it was time to reread F. Scott, specifically Gatsby. I just blogged about point of view, which is an ongoing issue in my novel in progress, and Nick Carraway of Gatsby seems to be everyone’s favorite example for point of view and narration.

    You nailed the whole point about exclamation points and other kinds of emphasis, esp. italics and caps. They’re tempting because they’re so easy, but if you make an effort to avoid them, your writing will almost certainly get better, stronger, deeper — and the ones you do use will have more impact. It’s all good(!!!!).

    1. Interesting, Gatsby is a great book and I like how Fitzgerald used Nick as an observer. I felt closer to Nick’s character, seeing things through his point of view.

      They are very tempting and so easy to use. I’ve noticed lately that the more I avoid italics, caps and other types of emphasis, I see improvement in my writing and when I do use them, it’s usually in the appropriate context. What you say is very true. Haha, it is (!!!) 🙂

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