Ten Rules in Ten Days - Rule 5: Keep your exclamation points ­under control.

Keep your exclamation points ­under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.

New writers love exclamation points. I guess they're afraid that if they don't have them, readers won't understand that the statement is an exclamation. As I've said in at least two of the previous rules, the reader should be able to tell the nature of the statement from the context.

As in most of the other posts, I search books for examples of what I'm talking about. I found a number of exclamation points in a place I never expected: Lionel Asbo, by Martin Amis. I consider Martin Amis to be a writer of literary fiction. He's been on Charlie Rose, and everything. This is a good book, although perhaps more interesting to Brits, as it takes place in England, and deals with issues related to England. For example, even the title is a reference to social problems in that country, as ASBO, used as the character's last name, is an acronym for Anti Social Behavior Order. Anyway, I was not expecting to find a bunch of exclamation points. But he has three in one sentence:

"What should I have said?"

"Same as John, Paul, and George! That you never saw nothing! You was looking the other way!"

I'm the last person to tell Martin Amis how to write, and I'm not doing it now, but I submit that the exclamation points don't add much, if anything. What did the author think it added? Tone of voice? He raised his voice? He shouted? I don't know. I believe, however, that we understand how it was said, or can gather as much, from the context. If he wanted him to shout, then all he had to do was say he shouted. 

So, if Martin Amis can get away with it, then why can't you? Because you're not Martin Amis. I bet that if these and other exclamation points were in your writing, they would not survive the editor.

Another book in which I did not expect to find exclamation points was The Death of Bunny Munro, by Nick Cave. I like Nick Cave's writing, and I liked this book. but he tosses exclamation points around like fairy dust. He even had the dreaded exclamation point/question mark combination. But he's Nick Cave, and you're not.

Then why is there a rule like this if no one follows it, even authors of literary fiction? Because they are good rules, particularly for new writers. If your writing shows up on an agent's desk, and it's peppered with adverbs and exclamation points, it screams amateur. Would the quality of the work be improved by an exclamation point? Let the editor put it in.