Exclamation Points

“That’s a feeling mark!” said the beginning reader with enthusiasm.

As a reading teacher, it’s fun to teach punctuation. I have my favorite introduction where I write three sentences on the whiteboard:

                                   "How are you?"
"Oh, not so well."

We talk about what we see and what we hear. Then the arrows come out to show what our voice does:

? =
, =
. =
! = combination of all the previous arrows,
one on top of another

Of course, the explanation point stands out to kids. It's exciting to make one's voice go out in all directions at a louder volume than normally practiced in the classroom, which makes the exclamation point daring and a little rebellious. Kids also enjoy writing it. They make a long line and then a dot below that can vary in size.

And once kids learn the exclamation point, they want to use it after every sentence though conferencing on this technique rarely leaves the writer to make a change. Students want all their sentences to be read a little louder and with excitement. Aren't all their ideas worthy of this mark and meant to be read so grandma can hear them without her hearing aide? I say, no. Not always." Yet the exclamation points remain in their pieces riddling a paragraph of words into something unconventional.

Somehow kids also learn one can write sentences with more than one exclamation point at the end. Where they learned this? I don't know. I've never seen it in anything published professionally. Maybe there's one or two in a children's book. But children aren't the only ones who use more than one exclamation mark.

I've seen it happen in texts and even school emails. What's the purpose? Do two or three exclamation points really mean more feeling behind the statement? I think not. I think it's redundant and it's one of my pet peeves, obviously. I roll my eyes when I read it, and I avoid it in all my writing.

Kids do love the exclamation point, though. I have to admit it is exciting. Ideas and feelings become stronger when the sentence ends with a bat and a ball.

By nancyrsantucci

Newly retired Texas educator who loves reading, exercising, cats, and hanging out with her husband.


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