Lynn Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves:
“In 1885, Anton Chekhov wrote a Christmas short story called The Exclamation Mark. In the light parody of A Christmas Carol, a collegiate secretary named Perekladin has a sleepless night on Christmas Eve after someone at a party offends him by casting aspersions on his ability to punctuate in an educated way. … At the party, the rattled Perekladin insists that, despite his lack of a university education, forty years practice has taught him how to use punctuation, thank you very much. But that night, after he goes to bed, he is troubled; and then he is haunted.
“Scrooge-like, he is visited … by a succession of spectres, which teach him a lesson he will never forget. And what are these spectres? They are all punctuation marks … and the first to disturb Perekladin’s sleep is a crowd of fiery, flying commas, which Perekladin banishes by repeating the rules he knows for using them. Then come full stops; colons and semi-colons; question marks. Again, he keeps his head and sends them away. But then a question mark unbends itself, straightens up — and Perekladin realizes he is stumped. In forty years he has had no reason to use an exclamation mark!
“He has no idea what it is for. The inference for the reader is clear: nothing of any emotional significance has ever happened to Perekladin. Nothing relating, in any case, to the ‘delight, indignation, joy, rage and other feelings’ an exclamation mark is in the business of denoting. … What can poor Perekladin do? When he hails a cab on Christmas Day, he spots immediately that the driver is an exclamation mark. … At the home of his ‘chief’, the doorman is another exclamation mark.
“It is time to take a stand — and, signing himself into the visitors book … Perekladin suddenly sees the way. Defiantly he writes his name … and adds three exclamation marks, ‘!!!’ And … he felt delight and indignation, he was joyful and he seethed with rage. ‘Take that, take that!’ he muttered, pressing down hard on the pen. And the phantom exclamation mark disappears.”