- Punction marks are neccessary for clear communication
- November 26th, 2009
I have often came across literary theories that state an author should never use punctuation marks (such as exclamation and question marks), because they build "artificial tension" and somehow make your writing look comical.
I strongly disagree and can say confidently there is nothing wrong with using exclamation points. I can prove it logically by exploring the use of these marks in the English language.
Using one does not build "artificial tension". It tells the reader what tone to read the sentence in. This is important when reading text out loud. Someone that really understand sentence structure does not read a question ending with a period the same way they do with a question or exclamation mark.
It is because any sentence can be read numerous ways that we have punctuation marks to make the intention of a sentence clear to the reader.
This is especially true for dialogue. People do not notice 'shouted/ asked Bob' until after they have read the dialogue because letters are so common they blend together. However, they do notice ! and ? marks because they are much rarer occurrences compared to letters.
Reading is the act of interpreting symbols into meaning. Use the symbols!
Lastly, unlike many writers I do not subscribe to the idea a reader should carefully study the intention behind a sentence. Punctuation marks exist so that readers do not have to worry about that, instead they can focus on the actual story.
If you disagree with me, have a non-writer read aloud your book that lacks exclamation and question marks. See for yourself how dull your story sounds when every piece of text is read as a level-voiced statement, lacking any degree of emotional expression.
Or sit in a grade school classroom and listen to young children (many do not yet understand the purpose of punctuation marks) read all text as a statement. The connotation in every word is lacking; every question sounds like a statement and every shout sounds like a whisper.
If you do not use punctuation marks in your writing you are not writing for readers. You are instead writing for those who hang on every word until the text loses much of its value (i.e. other writers). Please your audience before you please your peers.
Writing is communication. Be clear and concise in how you intend your text to be read. The English language has punctuation marks for a reason, and that reason is so the average reader knows if the sentence is a statement, a question, an exclamation, a request or a command.
Punctuation marks are great. You can communicate an idea so much more effectively with them than without them. For example, it has become common among my generation to use a tilde (~) to express an extension of the final syllables. This means, if you wanted to write the Mrs. Doubtfire quote "Hellooooo!", you can write it as the much more aesthetically attractive "Hello~!". I have a valley girl unicorn in my story that speaks in a sing-song voice, so many of her sentences use a tilde. I also use a tilde to denote how a magical incantation is spoken. Older readers may not get it, but my target audience will know exactly what it means. They use it in online games and text messages all the time.