Expressing Yourself!

Recently I attended a workshop where someone asked the question: “How many exclamation marks should my manuscript contain?”

The instructor replied: “Before I answer that question,  tell me how many your manuscript contains.”

“Approximately one hundred and thirty.”

The (multiple-award-winning) instructor’s response: “That’s one hundred twenty-nine too many.”

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Recently I edited a chapter in which the words “of course,”  appeared eight times. 

After reading the chapter I wondered, what in the world was this author thinking?

Unfortunately, the author was me!!!!

Don’t you hate it when you read something you have written and then wonder, what in the world was I thinking?

Of course. Upon re-reading the work I realized that the phrase was, of course, completely unnecessary.

So are most exclamation marks! Especially sentences where the author uses multiple marks as a way to really express emotion!!!!!

Our job as the author, and storyteller,  is to choose words that adequately express emotion. While it is grammatically correct to write: “Watch out!” It isn’t necessary to decorate emotional dialogue with punctuation as in the example below:

“No!” I screamed as Angela inched closer to the edge. “Stop!”

While reaching toward her I said, “Take my hand!”

Shaking her head, Angela took another step backward. “Stay away from me!”

“Please!!! Don’t do this! You mean too much to me!”

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Be honest, didn’t you get tired of seeing an exclamation mark at the end of every sentence?

Of course you did.

Readers quickly tire of exclamation marks and repeated phrases (which my critique group calls “an echo”).

Using a yellow, orange, pink, and light blue highlighter, re-read your work and mark phrases that repeat and unnecessarily punctuation. Then take a moment to review how much color appears on the pages. You might , of course, wish to remove every single word that doesn’t strengthen your manuscript.

As always, I welcome your comments.

Blessings and bestsellers to you!

Renea Winchester is an award-winning author of the book In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes, (Little Creek Books 2010) and Stress-free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author (Make Your Mark Publishing 2011). Visit Renea’s website at www.reneawinchester.com and her other blog at http://blogthefarm.wordpress.com

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2 Responses

  1. I have a lot of work to do, lol. Great post! (yes, I did that on purpose)

  2. Arg! The stabbing wounds of the exclamation mark.I’m working on a short humor story for a contest and a cop is yelling Marine-style at an high schooler guilty of underaged drinking. As I read again, I still need to keep a couple of shouting exclamations to make the point. (though, minus the dialog tag.) In all honestly, I’ve read it aloud to several people and the shouting is what makes it funny. Thanks for the tips. 🙂 Linda Joyce

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