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Author Topic: Exclamation points outside of quotes. Bad writing?  (Read 5623 times)
Talia
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« on: July 24, 2008, 12:23:18 AM »

I'm in the middle of reading an Anne McCaffrey book wherein she abused exclamation points like there's no tommorow, and it's bothering the crap out of me. Not to knock Anne McCaffrey, I'm enjoying it overall.

I just wanted to get some feedback from the writers out there about the use of exclamation points in fiction. Outside of quotes, it just feels wrong to me. What do you think? Any little grammatical foibles or whatnot that bother you?
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DKT
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« Reply #1 on: July 24, 2008, 12:27:48 AM »

Ugh.  I read a book last year...Cirque du Freak, I think, because I wanted to check out some kid horror stuff.  The author had the infuriating habit of doing that.  When I was supposed to be scared of something, he'd tag an exclamation point at the end!  When he wanted me to be impressed, guess what?  Exclamation!  OMG!  A spider!  How terrifying. 

So, yeah, it bothers me.  It may not bother me so much in the hands of better author, especially if said author didn't use it every other page, but when used thusly, yes!  Frustrating! Smiley
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SteveCooperOrg
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« Reply #2 on: July 24, 2008, 03:06:46 AM »

Can't say I'm a fan of the technique. Almost no good authors use it, and while that's not necessarily an indication that it's wrong, it's a good clue. That said, I've just realised I use another technique when I really want a shriek, and that is the whitespace after a scene end. Rather than just saying

"Then the corpse opened its eyes!"

I'll write.

"Then the corpse opened its eyes.


         #


Father Alonzo woke from the dream..."


The idea here is that the punctuation and the whitespace are both supposed to make you linger on the line a little longer*. That makes the impact of the sentence greater. There are probably better ways to set up the sentence so it has more impact, though.

    Steve

*apologies: an abundance of alliteration

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Russell Nash
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« Reply #3 on: July 24, 2008, 04:27:13 AM »

I just finished reading "Eats, Shoots, and Leaves" recently.  The "proper" way of using punctuation with quotes is basically* this:

When the punctuation belongs to the quoted words, it goes inside the quotes.  Pretty simple.  I'll give a couple of examples:

The sign said, "Enter and Die!"

That sign said, "Enter and Die"!  I'm out of here.  (The funny thing is that the grammar checker on my computer is going ape over the second example.)


*I says basically, because it's language not math.  Language has some wiggle room
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CammoBlammo
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« Reply #4 on: July 24, 2008, 04:33:23 AM »

One of the things that turned me off comic books as a young lad was the use of the exclamation mark as the sole signifier of the end of a sentence. The only sentences that didn't have them seemed to be questions, and even then they'd often be of the form, ??!!??

Has anything changed in the intervening years?
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SteveCooperOrg
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« Reply #5 on: July 24, 2008, 05:53:39 AM »

The "proper" way of using punctuation with quotes is basically [...] I says basically, because it's language not math.  Language has some wiggle room

The rules about swallowed punctuation are horrible. When I have my programmer head on, I want to call them just plain wrong.

Oh, for a chance to make the rules of punctuation rational. I'd make "it's" be the possessive, like "sarah's", and I'd allow -- nay, enforce -- two punction marks at the end of a quote, like this; That sign said, "Enter and Die!"!

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Russell Nash
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« Reply #6 on: July 24, 2008, 06:26:11 AM »

The "proper" way of using punctuation with quotes is basically [...] I says basically, because it's language not math.  Language has some wiggle room
Oh, for a chance to make the rules of punctuation rational. I'd make "it's" be the possessive, like "sarah's", and I'd allow -- nay, enforce -- two punction marks at the end of a quote, like this; That sign said, "Enter and Die!"!

I would go with that if the exclamation point was on the sign and the speaker/writer  was making an exclamation worthy statement.
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DKT
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« Reply #7 on: July 24, 2008, 06:32:39 AM »

One of the things that turned me off comic books as a young lad was the use of the exclamation mark as the sole signifier of the end of a sentence. The only sentences that didn't have them seemed to be questions, and even then they'd often be of the form, ??!!??

Has anything changed in the intervening years?

I would say "Yes," only there's a chance it might just be the comics I'm reading now as opposed to the ones I used to read when I was a kid.  In general now, the dialogue boxes are used more for internal dialogue of a character (kinda first person POV) instead of your typical Stan Lee 3rd person omniscient POV (Not to bag on him, but I think it was something in comics that definitely represented a time period).  So I don't really see a lot of, "Nick Fury turned his gun on Spider-man and pulled the trigger!" type sentences anymore. 

It probably also helps that the few mainstream books I do pick up are written by people like Grant Morrison, Joss Whedon, and Mike Carey.
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SteveCooperOrg
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« Reply #8 on: July 24, 2008, 07:04:14 AM »

I would go with that if the exclamation point was on the sign and the speaker/writer  was making an exclamation worthy statement.

That's the one! See? Logical.
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Listener
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« Reply #9 on: July 24, 2008, 11:16:58 AM »

I hate the fact that all punctuation has to go inside quotes.  I will leave it outside if I'm putting something "in quotes", but not if I'm quoting someone who said "I hate to put things in quotes."  I know the former is doing it "wrong", but it just feels WEIRD to me not to.
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wintermute
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« Reply #10 on: July 24, 2008, 11:28:22 AM »

I hate the fact that all punctuation has to go inside quotes.  I will leave it outside if I'm putting something "in quotes", but not if I'm quoting someone who said "I hate to put things in quotes."  I know the former is doing it "wrong", but it just feels WEIRD to me not to.
It's only wrong if you're American. The British rules are quite simple: If the punctuation is part of the quotation, it goes inside the quotes. Otherwise, it doesn't.

Having logical rules like this is the first step in getting people to accept British orthography in general, and putting all those U's back where they belong. Muhahahahaha.
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« Reply #11 on: July 24, 2008, 11:29:09 AM »

I hate the fact that all punctuation has to go inside quotes.  I will leave it outside if I'm putting something "in quotes", but not if I'm quoting someone who said "I hate to put things in quotes."  I know the former is doing it "wrong", but it just feels WEIRD to me not to.
It's only wrong if you're American. The British rules are quite simple: If the punctuation is part of the quotation, it goes inside the quotes. Otherwise, it doesn't.

Having logical rules like this is the first step in getting people to accept British orthography in general, and putting all those U's back where they belong. Muhahahahaha.

I do read a lot of British fiction.  I spell anaesthetize with an extra "a", after all.
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SteveCooperOrg
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« Reply #12 on: July 24, 2008, 12:04:22 PM »

The British rules are quite simple: If the punctuation is part of the quotation, it goes inside the quotes. Otherwise, it doesn't.

I think it's more complicated than that.

Sometimes the punctuation inside the quote is lost or transformed. Consider;

"Where are we going?" said joe.
"We're going to the movies," said kate.

In the first sentence, the quoted text ends in a question mark and a question mark remains in the text. In the second, the quote itself is a full sentence and should end with a full stop. Instead, the comma 'overwrites' the period that should be there.

Also, I'm not convinced of your rule; end-of-sentence markers (question, exclamation, full stop) always get swallowed, regardless of circumstance. So it's correct, but unsatisfying, to say;

Did he say, "this isn't a question?"

meaning

was, "this isn't a question," what he said?

as well as

was, "this isn't a question?" what he said?"
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Nobilis
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« Reply #13 on: July 24, 2008, 05:45:55 PM »

As GrammarGirl has often said, sometimes the best thing to do when a particular construction is ambiguous, is to reword the construction.
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