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Friday, November 14, 2008

You're generally not supposed to use multiple punctuation. One exclamation point at a time, guys!!!

But multiple punctuation carries meaning, and meaning is good. Here, Tommy's really asking:

  • Tommy
  • I don't do that any more, do I?


Here, it's a rhetorical question:

  • Tommy
  • I don't do that any more, do I???


I'm tempted to use multiple punctuation, sparingly, of course. What do you think?

Labels:

16 Comments:

I'm a big fan of !?! and ?!? It seems to add, "what the fuck!?!"

Sometimes,, when I'm feeling saucy,,,, I'l use multiple commas!!!

By Blogger Dan, at 3:41 PM  

I think our first job as writers is to make an emotional impact as long as we're not confusing the reader. I've never been confused by multiple punctuation, so I assume that everyone else is like me and understands it. I don't "underestimate my audience's thinking power" as they say.

But overuse of it can become tiresome. I think it's one of those "use when needed" type of things.

By Blogger Andrew Kosarko - Screenwriter, at 3:53 PM  

A professor in my college gave me a handout that said to punctuate rhetorical questions with periods. I'm guessing that could be expressing some kind of irony there.

I never really knew how effective the period at the end of a rhetorical question was, though. Then again, I often answer rhetorical questions, so what do I know.

By Blogger The_Lex, at 4:06 PM  

Instead of the multiple question marks, I'd go with "I don't do that anymore--do I?" or "I don't do that anymore... do I?"

By Blogger Andrew, at 4:07 PM  

Putting a period at the end of a question indicates one sort of rhetorical question -- the calm one:

"I don't bloody do that any more, do I."

Vs.

"Well I don't bloody do that any more, do I???"

That's not the same nuance at all, innit.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 4:37 PM  

Having bloody in there nuances it enough for me, but I deal mostly in American English. . ..

But for the second one, I would expect at least one explanation mark. . .except that's discussing the nuance of the nuance, and I don't know if that's getting too deep into the nuance. Ack!

By Blogger The_Lex, at 4:44 PM  

Could you put "do I" in italics for the same effect? Or is italics worse than multiple punctuation?

By Blogger Your Ill-fitting Overcoat, at 4:47 PM  

Hmmmm... maybe that's not the same thing, actually. I like the suggestion above of using ellipses.

By Blogger Your Ill-fitting Overcoat, at 4:48 PM  

I like some of the characteristics of rhetorical questions that Wikipedia highlights for the entry of "Rhetorical Question" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhetorical_question):

"A rhetorical question is a figure of speech in the form of a question posed for its persuasive effect without the expectation of a reply. . .Rhetorical questions encourage the listener to reflect on what the implied answer to the question must be. . .Rather, it is a device used by the speaker to assert or deny something."

How about the context of the conversation that elicits the rhetorical question. Would that clue the reader or the viewer into knowing that it's a rhetorical question and the nuance of it.

Personally, I love Greg House's rhetorical questions. . .most of the time; someone tries to answer it then cracks at them that it was a rhetorical question. Now that's context that hits you in the head.

By Blogger The_Lex, at 5:03 PM  

The hallmark of the best rules is that they are the ones that yield the most stunning results when broken.

By Blogger Kathy, at 5:26 PM  

Heh heh heh. Nerds.

By Blogger DMc, at 6:25 PM  

I never use multiple punctuation, but I don't have a problem with it. One of the weaknesses of the written word is one of the beauties of it for me; the fact that it's up to the reader and/or performer to interpret what's on the page. I mean you don't want to be confusing, but I'm very comfortable allowing the reader/performer to make most choices. I tend towards the italic when I really want to steer the interpretation.
Incidentally, do you prefer the underline to the italic in a script? I think the underline is a little obnoxious, but I've started to use it because italics don't show up too well in the printed work.

By Blogger OutOfContext, at 6:58 PM  

I don't think I'd use any multiple punctuation marks other than ?! or !? or standard combinations like ... and quotation marks with other punctuation.

I think if I wanted to indicate something as a rhetorical question, I'd show it by the reaction, or a "That was a rhetorical question" follow-up. If neither of those was appropriate, a
(rhetorically)
might be best.

By Blogger Steve, at 7:20 PM  

@OutofContext: yeah, I never use itals. Only underlines. I can see underlines on the screen; itals kind of disappear. And Final Draft itals look like crap.

Underlines look clunky, but scripts are clunky beasts. Otherwise we'd all be using a pretty font instead of Courier.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 7:43 PM  

I use ?! a lot.

I've only used italics in one script. It was V.O. that was coming from a cassette tape the main character was listening to -- sort of a voice of God type thing. I wanted to differentiate it from the dialogue in the scene without being overly distracting. I think it works.

Okay, short story --

Some guy was on my ex-girlfriend's Facebook account. Apparently he was threatened by me, as I was still friends with my ex.

What first tipped me off was excessive use of ??? and !!! and interspersed use of CAPS.

He copped to it, then asked me how I knew.

I pointed out the above mentioned excessive use of punctuation. His reply was "What do you mean???"

To which I said, "Exactly."

Moral of the story -- I think in this day and age of text messages and IMs, the triple punctuation at the end of a sentence just looks juvenile.

By Blogger James, at 5:45 AM  

This is where the judicious use of emoticons comes in handy.

I don't do do that any more, do I? :S

vs.

I don't do that any more, do I? :D

vs.

I don't do that any more, do I? :P

You can't go wrong! ;)

By Blogger Webs, at 11:15 AM  

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