Many years ago, in the days of typewriters, I sent a children’s book to a publisher I picked from a list, using a pin, and with my eyes closed, of course. Then I waited for the contract to arrive and old Walt to get in touch and discuss film rights. (Weren’t those days of ignorance sheer bliss?)
I got a no but a kind editor gave me some advice. He pointed out that his company didn’t actually take the sort of book I had written and told me about something I’d never heard of then – The Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook.
I had asked, in a cheeky covering letter, if he thought I should sell the typewriter and buy a knitting machine. He was kind enough to tell me to hang on to the former but to learn my craft and then came the sentence that has stuck with me ever since. ‘The overuse of exclamation marks is the sign of a true amateur.’
Nowadays I am always surprised how many I see scattered around students’ assignments and stories sent to me for critiques. (I shouldn't be because I probably used even more when I started out.) Naturally, I have learned that ! is not necessary at the end of nearly every sentence and should only be used for exclamations. The clue is in the name. It’s an Exclamation Mark!
Save them for real exclamations such as Ouch! Help! Look out!
As every rule is broken you will discover that the children’s stories in certain magazines contain, on average, fourteen exclamation marks, most of which are not needed. But, if a magazine likes them and uses them I advise students to write their piece first and add the ! later.