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Too Many Exclamation Points

I just finished reading a book of stories about imposters, and it had one terrible thing in common with the book of hoaxes I replaced it with: exclamation points.

In a bit about Clifton James, the guy who impersonated General Bernard Montgomery as part of the run up to the Normandy invasion, we have the following three sentences: "They couldn't have an air-sick Monty! He was schooled in Monty's preferences - he didn't eat eggs or any product of a pig! And he didn't smoke, which was a problem for James, who had to give up smoking!"

These sentences follow one after another, and none of them are really shocking. There is no reason for this proliferation of exclamation marks other than the writer thinking that you will be bored with plain statements ending with a period. It looks exceedingly amateurish, and it grates on your nerves after the tenth one you see. It's as though someone dumped a pound of raisons in oatmeal-raison cookie dough meant for a dozen cookies.

A Confession?

Look, I will be the first person to admit that this may be a stylistic choice that I simply don't like. I do have phrases from Barbara Ehrenhardt's 'The Guns Of August" saved for the dry wit she displays. I love the last sentence of Steve Novella's entry in "The Skeptic's Guide To The Universe," which goes "Unless your mother went to Pompeii, and then your brothers are wrong." I appreciate strategic understatement and underhand snark.

Perhaps this goes hand-in-hand with a distrust of the mob and a love of the educated. I am not myself particularly well-educated, classically educated, or, indeed, very smart, but I find the outer gloss of people who are those things attractive. Part of that outer gloss is the lack of conversational, over-excited style in writing. I'm sick of everybody being 'just your pal next door who happens to have done some research,' especially since the person taking on this pose frequently did not do much research and it shows.

One of the reviewers suggested the Book of Impostors was for children, but I don't think that is a good excuse for this shouty style of writing. The ten year old is probably no more impressed than I with "Monty doesn't eat eggs! And Clifton had to give up smoking! Isn't that exciting, fellow kids!" I realize there is a tendency to think children are dumb and need to be talked down to, but the stupid style isn't cutting it either way.

A Request

If your writing is not particularly polished, and you prefer a 'girl next door' vibe in your writing, I understand. Please don't try to fake it with a million exclamation marks. It will not cover up anything, and you'll sound dumb as a brick.


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