Why did God create exclamation points?
November 9, 2012
Let me get this out of the way right up front: I hate exclamation points!
When I see them in a book, the first thing that comes to my mind is how the author could have written the passage without them.
As far as I am concerned, they are nothing but a distraction. MUCH LIKE TYPING EMAILS IN NOTHING BUT CAPITALS.
Don’t you hate that?
So, as I try to analyze why authors use the dreaded !s, I search first for their proper usage.
Okay. (searching in vain)
Let’s go to step two.
If a person is describing a crowd’s reaction to a cataclysmic event, I can see an occasional exclamation point.
“Look out!” she cried as the building toppled and pieces of concrete fell on the spectators.
But even that is a stretch for me.
Usually, I see exclamation points in situations like this.
“You look great, baby!” he said to his wife.
Okay. The guy may have been sincere. He may have even been excited about the way she looked. But it strikes me that the better way to handle that exchange is to describe more of what was happening.
“You look great, baby,” he said when she walked out of the bathroom. He thought of the first time he saw her, thirty years before, standing in line to register for classes at State University. He had loved her every day since.
Or sometimes, I see these wretched symbols in plain old dialogue.
“Where are we going for lunch!” he asked her.
“I don’t know!” she answered.
Really? What do those silly exclamation points add to the story? If they are glad to see each other, then the author should show us why.
So, I asked at the top of this post why God created the exclamation point. As I thought about this, it struck me that it would make sense that if God was behind this whole sordid grammar deal, he would have been sure to use the punctuation when he deemed it appropriate.
Consider this passage. The angels are fluttering around the throne of God in the vision recorded in Isaiah, Chapter 6 (KJV):
1. In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.
2. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.
3. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.
4. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.
5. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.
So let me get this straight. The seraphim (which is already the plural form of the word, by the way) are circling around God Almighty and crying out: Holy, Holy, Holy, with no exclamation points in sight.
Then Isaiah steps in and can’t say three words without one.
(Stephen Woodfin is an attorney and author who writes legal thrillers almost totally devoid of exclamation points. Click here to receive his blogs on your Kindle.)