I’m doing the Comment Challenge over at motherreader.com and Lee Wind’s blogs this month, which has really been a great kickstarter for me and for this site. But it’s also been a bit overwhelming. The idea is to leave five comments a day on other kidlit blogs out there, which is a great and lofty goal. But to get to know a new blog I like to read lots of posts and that takes time, which means I’m not updating my own blog. And it means I’m not doing what I should really be doing, which is Writing for Love and Insulation. (On the brighter side, it does mean I’m spending less time on facebook, which is one of my new year’s resolutions.)

To Feed the Beast, I thought I’d do a quick post on another resolution, so here’s a brief history of Exclamation Points and Me.

When I was at N.C. State, one of my journalism professors had an expression: “Don’t start with a quote unless the pope says ‘*$^#.'” (Rhymes with spit.) The idea was that beginning a news story with a quote was a copout, and you should reserve that move for … well, I explained that already. Another thing you seldom use in journalism is the exclamation point. So I added that jubilant piece of punctuation to the pope mantra: “Never use an exclamation point unless the pope says ‘*#&@!”

Fast forward more years than I care to admit. I’m more cynical in some ways, but less cynical in others. I have continued to keep the exclamation point encased in glass as an emergency reserve. But in the cyber world (which didn’t exist when I was in college), people use writing to converse, and so they also use exclamation points. They use them a lot. They use them to connote enthusiasm and good feelings when fonts don’t do words justice. They use them to connote optimism. They use them connote anger. And happiness. When I found out about my book sale, I let myself use one. (ONE?!!!!! said my friend Annie, though she was glad to see it; she’s been after me to up my exclamation point quota for quite some time.)

If there was a standard font set I could use — a font set with names like Sarcasm, Just Kidding, Totally Awesome, Piss Off and Thank G-d! — I might not need to break the glass on the exclamation points. But my font set just has Times and Euphemia, so I’ve decided to liberate a few of the exclamations. I’m not going to use them by the barrel load, but I’m going to use them more. (I actually used them on the envelope for the holiday greeting to my friend Suzanne. She noticed right away, in part because her daughter does dramatic readings of all of their holiday notes.)

More than you needed to know, but you’ll see more exclamation points from me, at least informally, in 2010. There may even be more on this blog. And if I get another book sale, I might use two. Or three! Unless, of course, someone comes up with a Psyched-Out-of-My-Mind font. I’d use a font like that. Definitely.

Got an idea for a font? Suggest it in comments at the end of this post!

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16 Responses to !!!

  1. Suzanne says:

    Love your exclamation point resolution, as you know, and it made me think of…

    So when you’re happy (Hooraay!) or sad (Awwww!)
    Or frightened (Eeeeeek!) or mad (Rats!)
    Or excited (Wow!) or glad (Hey!)
    An interjection starts a sentence right…


  2. Lisa Nowak says:

    I totally agree about the comment challenge being overwhelming. I’ve found lots of cool blogs and got comments from several new people, but it’s easy to get sucked in. I keep having to tell myself that it’s okay to just add them to my Google Reader and come back later.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog! (Oh, crap, did I just use an exclamation point?)

  3. admin says:

    Father Reader has mad italic skills!

  4. FatherReader says:

    MR, you are so exaggerating the italics thing. As if I added italics to every sentence you wrote. Please. I completely understand how it might have seemed like that, but…

    Okay, never mind… 🙂

  5. admin says:

    I’m with you on the italics, Pam! Glad you took control! And the ironic font. I could use that one, too!
    Thanks, Terry!
    And Kara, there’s a funny post about journalism majors at http://www.pambachorz.com/blog/2010/1/13/5-reasons-why-journalism-majors-are-excellent-ya-writers.html#disqus_thread. I was actually an English lit major who just took a couple of journalism classes, so I’d actually argue that her premise is good for journalists and not journalism majors. But since you were a journalism major I think you’ll like it.


  6. MotherReader says:

    I’m still waiting for the Ironic font. Any day now.

    Reading your post made me realize how much we all do use exclamation points online to convey a sense of conversation unlike writing. Even though we’re obviously writing at the time. It makes me think of back when I first started blogging and didn’t have an italics button and couldn’t remember the HTML and my husband – bless him – would edit my posts. But he put italics everywhere. I asked him why he had put in so many italics, and he basically said that’s how talk. And he was totally right. I do talk like that, and because I was writing in such a conversational style, the italics made sense in capturing tone.

    But it was too much, so I quickly learned how to code my own italics. And most people will never know how many words I emphasize in an average sentence. (Like, three.)

  7. I love exclamation points … but the ellipse will be my downfall! I am so glad the comment challenge led me to your blog. Your story about how books stay with kids long after they’re “past” them is a great testament to what great memories you’ve created through reading for your son … Congratulations!!

  8. Kristen says:

    I love all punctuation as long as it is used appropriately, something my children don’t appreciate or do. But I probably do use exclamation points more frequently than I should. My excuse is that I’m excited when I use them, whether my readers are or not is a different story.

  9. Kara Parlin says:

    I feel the same way about the Comment Challenge. I want to keep up with the commenting, but I also want to add posts to my site so there’s something new to comment on. Remember the days when people didn’t have such problems?

    You made me chuckle with your mixed feelings about exclamation points. It’s hard to reconcile what’s taught and then what ends up happening in the real world. My degree is in journaism, but I’m a copywriter for preschool games. You want to talk about exclamation points? Grammar rules get thrown out the window as well. Sadly, when I turn to my fiction writing, I need a refresher.

    But I do love exclamation points and could never stuff them in a drawer. Semicolons on the other hand should be sent to a deserted island 🙂

  10. Vonna Carter says:

    Anyone who writes middle grade fiction without using exclamation points needs to join a school carpool. I needed earphones this morning. Thanks for visiting my blog!

  11. Niki says:

    The exclamation point is my favourite 🙂 Thanks for commenting on my blog!!!

  12. admin says:

    Thanks, Marge! I’m not in Boston anymore, sadly (Northern VIrginia now) or I WOULD be coming to hear those announcements. I tuned in for the tweets last year and it was so fun. Will likely do that again! Have a great time. I will try to visit your blog later tonight! Madelyn

  13. I’m glad the Comments Challenge led me to your blog! What better way to use that advance than for a furnace…you will be warm! I will be in your town beginning Thursday being a total dedicated librarian/kids book acolyte process junkie for the American Library Association conference. Will you get a chance to come in early Monday and hear the kids book award announcements? If not they are Facebook and Tweeting live! I’m glad the Comments Challenge led me to your blog!

  14. Kim says:

    I found your blog throught the Comment Challenge. I enjoyed this post. I am a fan of the exclamation mark. I try to keep it to a minimum in my formal writing, but on blogs, emails, facebook, I let them fly! 🙂

  15. admin says:

    That is a good point, Barbara — perhaps if you have the personality to back it up…

  16. Your post made me remember a favorite student who just could not stop using exclamation points, despite my encouragement to use them judiciously. But he WAS an exclamation point. So I made an exception for him.

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