The problem with exclamation points

Many online writers overuse the punctuation mark in their quest for emphasis, but some are fighting back. Can the trend be stopped?

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My eyes caught an article online the other day that included this sentence:

“Officials also stated that an innocent 35-year-old passerby who found himself caught up in a long-winded dispute over use of the serial, or Oxford, comma had died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.”

My first reaction was, “Damn, so it’s come to that.” I know many people whose ardor toward their preferred rules of grammar and usage is consummate. Still, it’s hard to believe such passions would end so tragically. Only upon reading further did I realize I was hoodwinked again by a satirical piece from The Onion.

Even so, isn’t there truth behind the humor?

As a traditionalist, I appear to be on the losing end of another grammar debate: the cascading use of the exclamation point. This pesky punctuation mark dates back to 14th-century Italy, when the poet who claims to have invented it could not quite find sufficient words to express the heights of his fervent exclamation. He must have had a broken heart.

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