I'm sure most of my readers would have heard the Scottish Bagpipes at some time in their life. These magnificent musical instruments are made for the Highlands, where their piercing chords can reverberate across the mountains. It's no wonder this old instrument is still so well known and loved by many.
My early memories of the bagpipes are from the welcoming of the New Year, when one of the residents of a beach I often stayed at would strike up the lyric of 'Auld Lang Syne' at midnight. The distinctive wailing sounds bounced off the ocean water creating an almost romantic effect. Amazing!
However, I don't recommend you listen to the Bagpipes in an enclosed space. I recently heard a whole band of about 50 bagpipe players in a building. It was overwhelming; the musical equivalent of a barrage of exclamation points:!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I was grateful that I was near the entrance of the room, and could make a hasty getaway.
Before diving into the dicey discussion on the demerits of exclamation marks, it is useful to see what they are used for:
· Conveying anger, scorn and disgust.
· Indicating sarcasm and reverse meanings.
· Underlining expletives and insults.
· Conveying an ironic tone
Quite simply, an exclamation mark can make a short sentence, or even just a word, say a great deal more than you could without it. It's a Spartan way to use words to great effect.
"All things in moderation' is a useful saying, but also problematic, since everyone has a different idea of what moderation actually means.
Some publications (particularly newspapers) don't like exclamation points at all; others are more tolerant.
How do you use exclamation marks effectively?
· Exclamation points don't need to be completely eliminated from your writing, but use them sparingly.
· There is no need for more than one exclamation mark at the end of a sentence. Using more than this is the sign of an amateur writer.
· You seldom need an exclamation mark at the end of more than one sentence in a paragraph, so select the sentence that you want to emphasise the most.
Here is an example of over-use:
'Jason went to golf - again! That's the second time in two days!! He says he's training for the tournament!!!'
· Conveying irony or reverse meanings is usually best done with exclamation marks, such as in "Thanks a lot!" Without the exclamation mark, you would probably need to explain that you mean the opposite.
· That very over-used phrase 'Oh My God' could seem like a pious statement without the exclamation mark to imply that you're not actually addressing the Almighty at all. (Of course, it could be used if you are addressing Him too, but you'll probably need to explain that you are, because this phrase is so often used without a skerrick of reverence intended).
Exclamation marks don't need to be eliminated from your writing; but use it frugally for best effect.
Do you need help to write better? Do you want some inspiration to put your thoughts into words? Could you do with some encouragement to develop your writing skills?
Click here to visit http://www.wordsandscenes.co.nz by Janice Gillgren
The blog on this site offers inspiration, encouragement and useful tips to writers at all levels.
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