In her outstanding books on fiction-writing techniques, Don’t Murder Your Mystery and Don’t Sabotage Your Submission, editor Chris Roerden says, “Exclamation points in abundance produce the same effect as too much italicizing: after a while, readers wonder if the writer thinks we are deaf or dense.”
According to Copyediting & Proofreading for Dummies by Suzanne Gilad (President of PaidToProofread.com), F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own joke.”
Exclamation points are appropriate in dialogue commands and very occasionally in dialogue exclamations.
If overuse of the exclamation point is a habit, you can use your software’s Find/Replace editing tool to quickly substitute periods where appropriate.
However, if the reader will not be able to tell that a statement in narrative is emphatic, or dialogue is spoken forcefully or with surprise, then it’s best to rewrite the scene to “show, not tell,” thus eliminating the need for exclamation points.
Patricia Stoltey is a mystery author, blogger, and critique group facilitator. Active in promoting Colorado authors, she also helps local unpublished writers learn the critical skills of manuscript revision and self-editing. For information about Patricia’s Sylvia and Willie mystery series, visit her website and her blog. You can also find her on Facebook (Patricia Stoltey) and Twitter (@PStoltey).