May 31 2009
Don’t let goofy punctuation trash your manuscript.
1. Please don’t use multiple exclamation points or question marks. It’s far less likely to suggest that the character is really surprised than that the author is really inexperienced. It’s cheesy.
- REJECTION: “I hate you, Martha!!!!”
- REJECTION: “How could you do that to me??”
2. I recommend against giving the narrator exclamation points. “John turned around. Then a ninja burst through the ceiling!” And then the editor rejected the manuscript!
3. SMILEY FACES ARE NOT ACCEPTABLE IN PROFESSIONAL WORK. If your novel manuscript, query or proposal use any kind of emoticon, your submission is definitely (X_X).
4. Please use exclamation points sparingly. Strings of exclamations are generally disorientating and hard to process. “I’m surly! You’re not listening to me! That is unacceptable! I’m getting even surlier!” If you use exclamations too often, they will become diluted and lose their zing.
5. Please be REALLY careful about capitalizing sentences for emphasis. “AND NOW YOU DIE, MR. BOND!” I wouldn’t even consider doing it more than once or twice per novel. And even that might be unnecessarily risky.