Capiod_8852ret bw
27 Mar

Jools Oliver & the persistent exclamation mark!

On the recommendation of one of our clients, I bought Jools Oliver’s Minus Nine to One: The Diary of an Honest Mum. It was indeed honest and I found it interesting, especially the story about Jamie and his sperm sample (I’ll tell you about James’ experience with that another time). As would be expected from an Oliver, food was a major theme in her book and I now feel more prepared for the transition from breast milk to solids. There are also some good recipes and cookbook recommendations at the back. It was definitely an easy read, but I do have one niggling criticism of her magnum opus: her overuse of exclamation marks!

I started to count how many there were, but gave up after finding sixty in the first chapter! It can be tiring to read a book at such a constant high-pitched level of excitement! Like a rollercoaster ride that never ever ends!!! I’ve always thought about punctuation as the tool writers use to set the cadence of their prose, like the notations on a piece of music. Piano. Fortissimo! There’s only so much fortissimo one can take before you need a stiff drink!!!

At my third job as a copywriter in the wonderful world of pharmaceutical advertising, my creative director practically beat the use of the exclamation mark out of my writing altogether. He had such strong feelings about that poor sign of extreme happiness, that I stopped using it unless I thought it absolutely necessary. Which is rarely. Obviously, neither of us has the soul of a Spaniard.

Trust me, I completely understand why she did it. Exclamation marks are the punctuation equivalent of a smiley face emoticon, asking the audience to “please laugh with me.” And it was her first book. In this instance, I think of it as the canned laughter in M*A*S*H; I hate the canned laughter, but love the show.



  1. 04 Apr

    cara @ lillian and leonard

    I wouldn’t have been surprised if she had used a smiley face emoticon throughout. The exclamation points bugged me so much that the book ended up in the bin before I even got past the first chapter. I’ve never thrown out a book before but it annoyed me that much.

  2. 04 Apr

    Eliza Claire

    I loved the content of the book, but she definitely needed a good editor.
    I am an over-user of the exclamation mark, and frequently find myself going back over my posts/comments/emails and removing said exclamation marks before pushing the send button.

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