Quote It! F. Scott Fitzgerald / Neil Gaiman

Cut out all those exclamation marks. An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own joke.

– F. Scott Fitzgerald, an American author of novels and short stories

Laugh at your own jokes.

– Neil Gaiman, an English author of short fiction, novels, comic books, and graphic novels

Wow. Sometimes writing advice is so contradictory. What’s an aspiring author to do?

When advice seemingly contradicts, I find it helpful to approach it from a ‘Yes, and’ perspective. First of all, Gaiman is likely not referencing exclamation points–context is everything.

But, that doesn’t negate the benefit of ‘Yes, and’. Fitzgerald and Gaiman are both right–even if talking about exclamation points. In my writing (and editing), I favor eschewing exclamation points for the most part. However, in the right circumstance, they are positively necessary! But only in those rare circumstances.

What do you think? About exclamation points and contradictory writing advice?

Michael Ehret, for Writing on the Fine Line


7 thoughts on “Quote It! F. Scott Fitzgerald / Neil Gaiman

  1. I admire F. Scott and his achievements, but like all of us, he occasionally speaks nonsense. An exclamation point is another tool in the toolbox. Use it when it’s the best tool for the job, but use only one.

    As for contradictory advice, I’m with you. Context is everything (and nothing illustrates that better than a political race!).

  2. I went on a writing course and was told the only time an exclamation mark was allowed was if it was used in a post modern ironic sense and since I don’t know what that is, I rarely use it.

    • My laugh of the day! (Ooops!) Oh, dang, another one … soldiering on. I would have had to raise my hand on that one too, Pat. Then I’d have been the “uncool” writer in the group … oh, like that’s NEVER happened.

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