Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Jaunty damned things ...

Thanks to a first-rate proofreader, my attention was drawn, today, to a distressing phenomenon.

Aforementioned first-rate proofreader (an epithet to die for, eh?) had kindly undertaken to review an item of professional correspondence that I had recently composed.

I can only describe her findings as disquieting. Profoundly so.

For - in the course of approximately 1,000 words (yes, o reader, my professional correspondence is as pithily concise as my blogging) - I had employed a total (by no means, mark ye, do I say a grand total) of five exclamation marks.

There was a time, not so long ago, at which this Intellectual Hooligan could almost have been said to have shunned the punctuative device in question. And to have regarded with horrified disdain those who failed to do similarly. Those for whom the exclamation mark was roughly equivalent to [shudder] a "LOL".

That is to say: a cheap, lazy means by which to avoid making your meaning clear using actual words. Just as a microwave meal to a Michelin-starred chef, so is the casual exclamation mark to the self-respecting writer. To resort to personification: the ill-used exclamation mark is the idiot at the table who supplies unnecessary punchlines to elegantly desultory witticisms.

Clumsily, tooth-gratingly jaunty. Boris Johnson without the ironical self-parody. Dare I go so far as to say -- Comic Sansesque?

So why in the name of all that is sacred had I used it five times in 1,000 words?

As with so many woes, this can, I think, be blamed on two factors. Which, depressingly, may for some people be heavily interdependent:

  1. Having a job
  2. Finding oneself needing to communicate at speed with those for whom interpretation of written material is not a resounding strength

At some point - like a man using a stock cube in his soup for the first time - I began to dabble. Sure, something inside me withered away (perhaps it was my soul) - but I found that the exclamation mark was sometimes pretty handy. Only occasionally, of course. Naturally. Just for those times when I was really in a hurry.

File under: Wedge, narrow end of the

Well, in the soup of the intellectual hooligan's prose, may I assure you, there will henceforth be only ever the purest and most nourishing of punctuative stock. Think parsley stalks, peppercorns, celery, bayleaf ... The works.

I will conquer this.

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