WHY THE HATRED FOR THE EXCLAMATION POINT? Why would Elmore Leonard call for limiting the use of exclamation points? This article in the Atlantic by Megan Garber provides a list of some of the names that the exclamation point has taken historically. It begins as a mark of approval. Garber says: “From the time in the 15th century when printers introduced it as a type element, the exclamation point was known colloquially as a ‘note of admiration'”. Ben Jonson…. used the term ‘admiration mark.'” Point 18 in Garber’s list cites a sixteenth century writer who referred to an exclamation point as “a wonderer”.
By the time we reach the twentieth century, we arrive at names like “screamer” and “shriekmark” being used by authors, typesetters and printers. Exclamation points had become associated with excess. Lynne Truss in her book EATS SHOOTS & LEAVES refers to it here as “hopelessly heavy-handed”. She quotes H W Fowler: “An excessive use of exclamation points is a certain indication of an unpracticed writer or of one who wants to add a spurious dash of sensation to something unsensational.” She concludes with Scott Fitzgerald’s opinion that using an exclamation point in humorous writing was like laughing at your own jokes.