Excessive use of exclamation marks does not add gravitas, it adds shame, writes Penelope Whitson, who breaks out into a rash at the very notion.
As a word nerd I get all coquettish over punctuation that’s used in a sensible, coherent and downright mannerly method.
So when I see exclamation marks carelessly littering any form of communication, like the obscenely gleaming path of a drunk snail, I get the rash of rage, which of course means I restrict my friendships on Facebook because the rash isn’t flattering and Facebook is peppered with excited punctuation all hyped up on ecstasy.
Like an unconstrained ape in a Perky Nana factory, the rash rages out of control when I encounter mass exclamation marks in work communication. You could say I’m dour and curmudgeonly but I prefer to think of myself as fighting the good fight against out-of- control tomfoolery – you don’t need all those exclamation marks, especially not if they’re in cahoots with Comic Sans (a peculiar but effective form of torture for the word nerd in your life). Excessive use of exclamation marks does not add gravitas, it adds shame.
Work communication isn’t Twitter (although you might want to lay off them there, as well).
If you send a bulk-load of exclamation marks bouncing into your colleagues’ inboxes with all the vigour of a Labrador puppy that’s been eating sugar all morning, perhaps you need to ask yourself, ‘What message am I sending with my !!!? Do I even care?’
At this stage you may as well reach deep into the cupboard of disgrace and make your font purple, to get an extra round of jollies in.
At best, an exclamation mark can add humour and colour, some pizazz, in the same way that shoulder pads can add height and hilarity to an outfit. But if you can’t go a day without whipping a couple of !!! out, it might be time to go cold-turkey. Wean yourself off and see if after a few days you don’t feel healthier, thinner, more attractive and oddly more popular for it.
I fancy the pants off punctuation because I quite like clarity, flow and sense and I’m pretty sure the correct use of any punctuation is downright swoonworthy.
What I don’t fancy is adolescent use of the exclamation mark undertaken by those old enough to know better – it makes me fear for humanity. I’m concerned by those who feel the need to have their exclamation marks travel in gangs. Why practice polygamy with your punctuation? Surely, if you commit to one, that’s all you need? (Ellipses are a completely different pot of badgers. They have a name, for starters.)
You might not share my thoughts on the exclamation mark – possibly you’re a long-time user or abuser and a practising polygamist with no plans to lay off the shouting anytime soon.
Regardless, I demand you think about cutting back. The exclamation mark is like drinking – add one for the road and you’ll regret it. Don’t be that person. The exclamation mark hog. It’s like stealing all the French onion reduced cream dip at parties. Very bad form.
Idealog has been covering the most interesting people, businesses and issues from the fields of innovation, design, technology and urban development for over 12 years. And we're asking for your support so we can keep telling those stories, inspire more entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and keep pushing New Zealand forward. Give over $5 a month and you will not only be supporting New Zealand innovation, but you’ll also receive a print subscription, an Idealog t-shirt and a copy of the new book by David Downs and Dr. Michelle Dickinson, No. 8 Recharged (while stocks last).