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Avoid Overusing These 5 Punctuation Marks & Type Styles

writers warningA guest post by Sarah Elisabeth who blogs at sarahelisabethwrites.com

An easy trap bloggers and other freelance writers can fall into is using a plethora of punctuation marks and type styles  in an attempt to enhance their writing.

Here are five such things to avoid – with examples:


When you want to emphasize parts of your sentence that you feel are important, don’t use italics constantly. This becomes annoying rather quickly to your valuable readers. Instead, choose precise words that convey your message.

Do use italics for giving the title of a book or movie, such as Gone with the Wind.

“Quotation Marks”

I’ve fallen into the “trap” of using quotes marks to “set apart” certain words. That “jolts” the reader out of the post as well.

Quotation marks should be primarily used for…quotes. “Use quotation marks when quoting someone.” – Sarah Elisabeth.


Boldness is good in many aspects of life, and it has its place in a blog post. However, putting an entire sentence or paragraph in bold, even if it’s important, is not always suitable, and should be used only a few times per post. Otherwise, it loses the intended effect.

Subtitles are a great place for boldness. It distinguishes each section of your post, making it a faster, easier read. Blog readers love to skim and absorb the things that interest them most.



Exclamation Points!

I love this one! I once used exclamation points at the end of every sentence, because I was so excited about what I was saying! And I wanted you to be excited, too! True, but exhausting. A writing instructor once advised using one exclamation point per one hundred pages of prose (excluding dialogue).

How many should a blog post contain? Ideally, zero. Maybe one every five, if necessary. It’s hard at first to eliminate the exclamation point, because you’re afraid readers won’t catch your enthusiasm or passion. Just do it, and reread your sentence aloud. Sound flat? Probably not, but if it does, work on strengthening the structure of your sentence. Choose salsa words that will stick in your readers’ mind while they anticipate your next post.

Your message is important, so don’t hinder readers from absorbing it, because they don’t want to wade through the delivery format. Make it easy for them, and you have the opportunity to impact their life.

 What else do you work to avoid in your writing?

Sarah Elisabeth is a freelance writer and has also authored over fifty inspirational flash fiction stories. Her first e-book, Third Side of the Coin, Seven Flash Fictions is now available on Amazon and Barnes & NobleHer blogging expertise covers activities in seven blogs and counting. Check out her latest musings at sarahelisabethwrites.com

Two newsletters:
Abundant Freelance Writing – a resource for freelance writers including 3x a week job postings.
Writing With Vision – for those who want to get a book written.

Image from http://www.sxc.hu

{ 19 comments… add one }
  • Mac

    I believe
    Mac recently posted..The Root and Solutions of Commitment PhobiaMy Profile

  • Nancy Elizabeth

    This is excellent, Sarah! Very well done. I especially like your advice on exclamation points. This whole article is a keeper.

  • I am guilty of exclamation point overuse, will definitely tone it done. Sarah, thanks for sharing this article, I really enjoyed it. Jan, thanks for the link.
    Rita Garcia recently posted..Bright StarMy Profile

  • Leonor Miller

    Very truly conveyed! I have seen many bloggers using bold now and then in an article. It just takes off the attention. I will try using these points in my writing. Can you tell me what salsa words are?
    Leonor Miller recently posted..Bras ergorestMy Profile

    • Leonor, salsa words don’t have to be long or elegant sounding. Even my use of the word salsa will probably stick in a reader’s mind far more than if I’d said, “Choose unique words.” In fact, the idea came from a writing instructor, who wrote an article in which she dubbed the term salsa words. I’ll never forget that lesson because of it.

      Exchange bland, cliché wording for something that not only conveys the message clearly, but spices up the sentence.
      Sarah Elisabeth recently posted..Stuffed Animal Kingdom: The Keys to StoryworldsMy Profile

    • Ah, salsa words… my definition of them would be hot or as Sarah says above, unique. Salsa is a mostly tomato based sauce that’s adds a hot, spicy flavor – Mexican mostly. There’s also salsa dancing – same origin.

  • I have to go over my text and replace dashes with different sentence structures. I love dashes – can’t get over them!

  • Ali

    Hi Sarah, I totally agree with you on all 5. What do you way about semicolon?
    Ali recently posted..Kiss Your PageRank Goodbye If You Don’t Know These 9 Things (#7 Is Crazy)My Profile

  • I have to remind myself constantly to avoid overusing certain words, like “pretty.” As in “that was a pretty good movie” or “I had a pretty fun time.” I’m really bad about “great,” too. My first drafts are usually littered with “great.”

    This post made me think of a book I was just sent to write a review on. I can barely make it through the first chapter because it is just littered with all of these things. A book! I think it probably would have worked better as a graphic novel.
    Amelia Ramstead recently posted..Oh yeah, and I’m an editor too!My Profile

    • The great (pun intended) thing about knowing the words you overuse is they become buzz words that catch you attention when editing, giving you opportunity to replace them.

      I had the same problem with a novel I was reviewing. Through the first chapter every line of dialogue had a word in italics. Thankfully, they lessened as the novel progressed.
      Sarah Elisabeth recently posted..Stuffed Animal Kingdom: The Keys to StoryworldsMy Profile

  • Thanks for the reminder. I am very guilty of the exclamation point over-use and will work on using stronger words rather than that lazy punctuation.
    It was actually difficult to write this comment without one. wow I really am addicted!
    Susie Klein recently posted..What If?My Profile

    • I know, right? A lady I blog for literally ends every sentence in an exclaimation point when we email, so I throw in one or two in reply. That’s something I keep in mind with clients or in conducting interviews to match their style so they feel comfortable. Then I can clean up the final version before posting 🙂
      Sarah Elisabeth recently posted..Stuffed Animal Kingdom: The Keys to StoryworldsMy Profile

    • Those habits sneak in! (some irony their I hope.)

  • Jan

    I love this, and I’ll link to it tomorrow on my editing FB page. Well done!

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