THROW out the daily crossword -- here's an idea for all 'wordnuts' out there to form a new compulsive habit.This word game beats racking your brain over cryptic clues 'down' and 'across'. Some may say it deserves a patent; others may suggest some serious counselling. At risk of chorus of "get a life" feedback, Classie Corner today launches 'The Great Exclamation Mark Hunt!'. It's easy! It's fun! It's addictive! No maths involved!
THE exclamation mark has long been a sacred symbol of grammar. In the publishing professions, we have been conditioned to use it so sparingly that this tiny blot of ink on paper almost gained a heritage order. Crusty old sub-editors on journals of record would peer over reading glasses, sneer and utter, "Never", at any noviciate who dared press the holy key. The less fervent traditionalists would tolerate the occasional indulgence. The mark has carried a downmarket status in the highbrow world of grammar. "Serious" writers have often scorned it as the tool of the advertising copywriter; such critics may betray some professional jealousy because we all know who pays the most tax.
OF course, the exclamation mark has also been a hallmark of 'sensationalist' reporting but few journalists want to be paraded on Mediawatch so we keep a leash on the !-finger. As the handy websiste www.about.com notes, the mark is known by "various slang terms: bang; pling; smash; soldier, control; screamer", but certain terms that have been heard around the editing desks are not suitable for this G-rated location. Nevertheless, strict grammarians chanting "only use it when appropriate" have failed to the keep lid on the !-box.
IN the new age of communication through email and 'texting', the exclamation mark has proliferated like the plague.The tiny symbol certainly becomes more important in the abridged messages flashed around on mobiles.The intruiging exercise of working out whether an exclamation mark is warranted is the game plan for The Great Exclamation Mark Hunt!
GRAB any page of the Classifieds, search it for '!', and work out whether it's needed. A page I just scanned expounded: "This is not a carboot sale!" So next Saturday, I'll get down to the monthly markets at Russell Island Motel to make sure no one dares deviate from the "art and craft" theme. So now its LOL! and thanks for joining me on my !-hunt in the marvellous community of classified advertising.
This column has appeared in The Redland Times, Queensland, Australia.