A side-effect of the Leonard-mania is that I learned a new word: Bangorrhea. I'm sure some of you will have heard of it already, perhaps even suffer from it yourself, but it was new to me. Bangorrhea is the condition of overusing exclamation marks. One of Elmore Leonard's rules is to use no more than two or three exclamation marks/points in a whole novel, and I believe it was Ernest Hemingway who said that using an exclamation mark was akin to laughing at your own joke.
I sway both ways on this one. In my casual correspondance - e-mails, blog comments, facebook posts etc. - I use exclamation marks a lot. In my "proper" writing I try to use them as little as possible. This BBC article explaining bangorrhea, sums up how I feel about the least sophisticated of our punctuation marks nicely:
Many of those "suffering" from bangorrhea would argue that exclamation marks are an attempt to achieve lightness of tone or emotional emphasis.
"See you there!" - in response to an invitation to a party - implies enthusiasm about attending. "See you there." merely states that you will be there. It could just as well be a rendezvous by the gallows as a joyous social occasion.
Over the last few years, I have been whittling down my use of exclamation marks - having been taught in school that they are a superb! way! to create! drama! I'm not down to two or three per 100 000 words, but I can usually get through a short story without insulting my readers by adding them for emphasis (it should be obvious if your character is saying something with emphasis, loudly or in a light-hearted manner without you telling everyone with a !). After a first draft of a novel I probably have something more like one every 2000-3000 words, but I'd hope to cull this by the final version to maybe one every 10 000. Well, I'm working on it, anyway. How about you?