I have an associate screenwriter friend who has very successfully sold his scripts to Hollywood. He just posted this article and, while it’s written for screenwriters, the subject fits to writing novels. So often writers want to get a very dramatic point or dialogue across to the reader and use multiple exclamation points or question marks. Here’s the rub …
ON PUNCTUATION PET PEEVES, INTERMINABLE TORTURE, WANTING TO JUMP OFF THE ROOF, AND WHAT THE HELL IS AN “INTERROBANG”‽ (used with permission from Mike Bierman)
I’ll bet less than ONE-PERCENT of people know what an interrobang is. Probably, more actors know than writers. Perhaps not. Do you? You will in a moment. We’ll get to it shortly.
(1) EXCLAMATION POINTS & QUESTION MARKS.
I cannot stand it when I read a screenplay or other writing and people misuse punctuation. It is an immediate turnoff!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
See that? HORRIBLE. Don’t do it. It makes your work read like a third-grader’s homework. Who wants to read that??????????? <<<<<<<UGH! There it is again!
Use ONE exclamation point or question mark! If you absolutely cannot resist and must use more than one (please, don’t), use THREE!!! Never use TWO!! Do you get it???
If you sometime have to ask an excited question, which happens, people commonly use the double marks as follows: !? or ?!. Please don’t do this. It is not necessarily wrong, it is just irritating. Instead, use a small action line to indicate the interrogatory or the excitement, or use a parenthetical. Couple that with ONE MARK of your choice.
(2) THE INTERROBANG:
There is a non-standard mark known as an INTERROBANG, which I have never seen used in a screenplay. It looks like this: ‽. When spoken at the end of a sentence, it is spoken with a QUESTIONING AND RISING INTONATION. There are numerous variations in fonts, some of which are pictured below. There is even an avante-garde double-mark interrobang, also pictured below. I suspect most readers would have NO CLUE what it is, and presume it was a typo or printing error. I actually think the Interabang (alternate, non-preferred acceptable pronunciation), is pretty cool. Personally, I like it. Nonetheless, I have never used it. I have not tried to cut and paste it into Final Draft or Writer Duet. It is, however, a Unicode character (U+203D). If you are not going to use an Interrobang, PLEASE stop with the double marks. It’s not nearly as bad as the endless, non-one, non-three exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! or question marks??????????????????????????, but I always mark it for editing anyway. <<<<<<<<<See how irritating those things are? DON’T DO IT…
(3) ELLIPSIS… :
Ah, did you catch what I did there?^^^^^^^ That’s an ELLIPSIS. Plural is “ellipses.” It is THREE dots……………….. NEVER MORE, DAMMIT, and NEVER LESS, DAMMIT .. Those last two uses were wrong! This is correct: Ellipsis… here, AND this is also correct: Ellipsis … here. This is wrong: Ellipsis …here.
The constant use of ellipses is unbelievably irritating, and the sure, screaming, neon, blazing, tornado-siren warning sign of a R-A-N-K AMATEUR. It does not make you a Zen master… it makes you an irritant. Use them SPARINGLY. They are used for a pause when someone trails off in thought…
Interjections — when one character INTERRUPTS another — look just like they appear here. They are used to show a quick interjection in dialogue in which one person cuts off another mid-sentence, and doesn’t let them —
Are you listening‽
The PROPER use of these marks will impress people. Well, maybe not, but they won’t flag your work as amateurish. The IMPROPER use of these may get your work THROWN AWAY, BURNED, RECYCLED, or TRASHED without being read.
When I am hired to review, script doctor, or rewrite something and it has these problems, I know that I will be making HUNDREDS OR THOUSANDS of punctuation corrections in the script. I immediately start using every curse word known to man, and then speak in tongues and invent more. It is TORTURE to fix, and TORTURE to read. DON’T MAKE YOUR READER WANT TO SNUFF IT! Don’t be THAT guy. It’s just not that hard. Learn to do it right, and make it past that first cynical screener who desperately wants to throw away your script as unread crap, and take an early lunch. You don’t want to give them a reason NOT to read your script, do you‽