Exclamation Marks and Inspiration for Consideration by Aspiring Authors

G. Mitchell Baker
Published on: 9th January 2014
I ask you aspiring authors, what is it about the use of exclamation marks, and the notion of inspiration? Asked to write an article, I posted the following in a trusted social networking group:

Set me loose on a zinger ... The global e-magazine "Inspiration Unlimited" http://iuemag.com/index.php asked me to write a magazine article for them. Just before Christmas, I submitted an adult contemporary novel and a middle grade book to MKSP, so I have an interest to work on fresh material, until I am ready to dive into another major writing project. I would love your input given this IU e-Mag opportunity. Given a number of categories to choose from for the article category, my short list is: 1) Deeply Inspiring, 2) Inspiring Stories, 3) Local Inspiration, 4) Special Features, 5) Science Pick, 6) Experts' Corner, and 7) Aspiring Writers. What may be of interest? Set me loose on a zinger and I will do my best to zing it.
exclamatin mark,aspiring authors
I intended my invitation to engage, given my quest for direction, perhaps clarity. I was seeking inspiration to write an article about inspiration.

Among the first responses received, was a suggestion: "Well if you have something Deeply Inspiring, I would go for it. You could write for so many of these categories. I am sure you will write something wildly moving!!! That can be a new category!" The suggestion ... the kudos were submitted by an American author and friend, Brenda Perlin. In particular, I enjoyed the suggestion, "...I am sure you will write something wildly moving!!!"

From this 'wildly moving' comment came an inference that perhaps the accompanying exclamation marks (or exclamation points) might be a cue for some actual inspiration. "And how, I ask of you, the aspiring author, would that be likely?"

In my own thoughtful state, I would probably suggest the exclamation was an emphasis, perhaps prompt to be inspired. It was then Ms. Perlin's apparent desire to make it three exclamation marks aroused curiosity. How then, is it that one exclamation mark, not four, but three were employed to communicate this curious attempt to inspire.

Given the liberal use of exclamation marks, I immediately thought of another American author, who made clear, "Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke," F. Scott Fitzgerald. Then there is the English author Terry Pratchett, who stated, "Five exclamation marks, the sure sign of an insane mind." With so much energy committed to the render of the exclamation mark to a 'joke', or diagnosis of 'insanity', I was then motivated to do some research and found there was an American businessperson who stated, "We only live once, but once is enough if we do it right. Live your life with class, dignity, and style so that an exclamation, rather than a question mark signifies it!" Gary Ryan Blair. Then I found, there was the Filipino musician Joey Santiago, who offered, "It's always nice to end your sentences with an exclamation mark, and not a comma." I liked the positivity!

Left to consider there are the authors who distain for exclamation marks, and then there are businesspersons and musicians who make a connection with the enthusiasm of an exclamation mark and the notion of niceties... perhaps even inspiration, it remained of interest how some embrace, even encourage the use exclamation mark, perhaps as part of their formula for inspiration.

Now, I pause to ask of the aspiring author: How would you consider Ms. Perlin's use of exclamation marks? Would it be part of your formula for inspiration? Would you look at your page and consider a strike of every exclamation mark? Would you allow Fitzgerald and Pratchett to have such influence over you and your inspiration...to allow them control over your page?

These questions reminded me of the Greek Philosopher Socrates' quote that may loosely relate to the tension between the 'No exclamation mark' camp and what I think of as the 'Fuzzy inspiration' faction. "I decided that it was not wisdom that enabled poets to write their poetry, but a kind of instinct or inspiration, such as you find in seers and prophets who deliver all their sublime messages without knowing in the least what they mean."

Aside from being somewhat glad, Ms. Perlin did not venture into the insane five exclamation mark territory, it occurred to me to ask, "Who would say four exclamation marks (and not five) would be any more or less the 'joke'?" Alternatively, to ask, "How is it that exactly five marks is '...the sure sign of an insane mind'?" Then I questioned, am I not again trying to impose 'wisdom', perhaps to over rationalize that which would override 'instinct' or 'inspiration'?
I am sure Socrates was close to the point worth making in this article and as I sit here, as I write this article, inspired, it was because of the use of Ms. Perlin's exclamation marks. I have decided I would not dare allow Fitzgerald, Pratchett or any other to dictate to me how I read or write with my exclamation marks. I am determined to bull forward and for them not to control how I receive my inspiration from such wonderful, enthusiastic cues. This is my conclusion- for me, the exclamation marks, whether '...sublime messages...' or a blatant communication of enthusiasm is not necessarily the subject of wisdom, and may well provide a clue for "...a kind of instinct or inspiration..." Moreover, as a writer who dares to always be an 'aspiring author', I am willing to admit I know not '...in the least what they mean' as I bid thee a free and inspired, perhaps even a spirited farewell!... !!! ... !!!!
On a scale of 1-10, how inspiring did you find this article?