Editorial

Do you over punctuate ?!?!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Author F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, "An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke."

The overuse of exclamation points and multiple question marks are a sign of undisciplined writing.

But it's happening everywhere.

Writing isn't easy, especially when trying to get a point across.

The purpose of good grammar is to ensure the written word is correctly comprehended and is easy and enjoyable to read.

The problem is that every writer, including professionals, struggles to find a way to put the right words together in such a way to persuade, to inform, to energize, to entertain or to goad others into action.

We all have important information we need to write about, whether in the form of emails, blog posts, or documents for clients or businesses. In this technological world of the internet, grammar, spelling and the English language as a whole are falling to the wayside.

"l8tr" is shorthand for the word "later" and "brb" means be right back.

Every sentence ends with at least one "!" if not more and when asking a question many people use ???

THE ONLY RULE ON THE INTERNET IS TO NOT TYPE A MESSAGE IN ALL CAPS, because that means a person is shouting an idea while typing on line. It has a negative connotation of someone who is overbearing, demanding and/or has the notion that "all-caps-means-they-win" mentality.

So, the temptation to use extra punctuation as a way to show emotion is running rampant.

Which is funny, because:

According to Merriam-Webster an "!" is used especially after an interjection or exclamation to indicate forceful utterance or strong feeling in a sentence like, "Stop! A car is coming."

Using more than one exclamation mark really isn't going to make that much difference. Does the urgency, joy or panic of the sentence really need !! or !!! to get the point across?

Maybe for authors or Facebook/Twitter posters, but remember whenever used it should actually show a heightened sense of emotion.

As for the issue of multiple question marks; there is some debate among writers about doing that.

For those who paid attention in English class -- and professionals in business, legal and journalist areas -- a single "?" is used in normal, everyday questions.

Example: Are you still reading this article?

Good, because the use of a double question mark is considered appropriate by authors when expressing anger and/or action that needs to be acted upon in a timely manner.

Example: "Are you done reading that book??" he asked.

Now don't get that confused with what is called passive anger; the kind of irritation that just sits around and festers. That requires an ellipsis, which is the three little dots with spaces that look like this . . .

Example: "Not yet . . ." she replied.

The ellipsis is another often misused grammar tool but not as much as the other two.

The use of three question marks is way too much and most writers -- professional and regular -- agree it should never be done. However, there are those who support its use when trying to show an overly dramatic effect.

Example: "And what do I have to do to get that book, steal it from you while you're asleep?? Or should I just wait until you're dead to get it back???"

A bit too much emotion over a book?

Using !!!! or !?! or ?!? is considered complete craziness and shouldn't be used at all.

As for the debate over proper use of grammar, The Brazil Times uses the Associated Press Stylebook to ensure the stories produced by our staff reporters are correct, easily comprehended and enjoyable to read.