Saturday, January 31, 2015

Exclamation Points Then and Now

image from

Do you remember your grammar school lesson on types of sentences? Declarative, Exclamatory, Interrogative -- those are the three I remember. Differentiated in part by their closing punctuation mark. Ah, it was simple then. A few rules, easy peasy.

Over the years, I have noticed myself using more and more exclamation points in my electronic communication, especially in texting. The other day, my daughter remarked completely as an aside, "You don't even need the exclamation point." Just like that, I had a serendipitous realization that I had begun to rely on the use of exclamation points to communicate the upbeat feeling of my text. Truly, I was the frog in the cold water of regular punctuation who didn't even realize I had been gradually boiling in the scalding water of overuse.

Turns out, this is a thing. Not just with me, but people in general have begun to rely on the exclamation point to communicate enthusiasm in e-communications. That's fine, if your sentence is "I could not believe what Felicia Sue wore to Esmeralda Ann's wedding!" But, we have begun to use it at the end of sentences like, "Thanks for your note!" and "I got your email!"

Seems that some regard the lack of exclamation points in e-communication to be communicating brusqueness. Until my daughter's text this week, I certainly did. And where I didn't put a (!), I added a smiley emoji.

I've quit cold turkey. And so far, no one has expressed their concern that I am being brusque. Of course, I also replaced the exclamation points with adverbs, adjectives and carefully chosen words that communicate a little more subtly.

Do you overuse exclamation points? Well, do you?!


sghilliard said...

I'm guilty as well[!] I'll think about cutting back, but I used them for the same reason you described, to indicate enthusiasm and an upbeat tone. I know emoticons are frowned upon, but I still use them for the same reason: it's far too easy to misinterpret tone in online communication. When I worked in IT I ran into far too many times, and finally started going to talk with people face to face when it was important, even though I prefer email. Great post [!] :-)

Joyce Sullivan said...

Guilty as charged!! I've been mindful of my overuse and appreciate your thoughtful post to think about it some more.