Listen up! Here's contributor Faith Salie:
Does it seem like I'm shouting at you?!! Or I'm excited?! Happy!? Crazy!? That's because I wrote what I'm saying with a bunch of exclamation points!!!!
Exclamation points are everywhere, more than ever. Surely you've noticed your emails and texts -- the ones you receive or compose -- are BURSTING WITH ENTHUSIASM! Mine are, and I feel funny about it. I don't think in my entire 18 years as a student I ever used an exclamation point in an academic paper.
And now I probably use them in 80% of my missives!
Serious business people pepper their memos with them. A freelancing pal tells me part of her "onboarding" process is to assimilate into the exclamation culture of her new colleagues. And high school teacher friends report their students are using them with abandon. How do those essays read?
"So in conclusion, it was totally the best of times! And the worst of times!!"
Why the exclamation escalation? Well, we're such a text-based society. Instead of old-school talking on the phone or meeting in person (situations in which our voice reveals our true meaning), we now communicate mostly by typing -- texts, emails, social media posts. To add emotional nuance, we resort to extreme punctuation to suggest I like you! Or I want you to like me! or Just kidding!
Can you imagine ending an email like this? "Thanks."
Of course you cannot, because you are not a cold-blooded monster. You are a human being who writes, "Thanks!"
Exclamation is the new normal. A recent study found that text messages that end in periods are perceived as less sincere (!) than those ending with a "!".
This gives periods a bad name. We need periods more than once a month. A period is self-possessed. It has dignity, which is something we could all use nowadays.
I know some of you will exclaim none of this matters. And you're right; the world's not ending because of exclamation overpopulation.
But ... what if we all took it down a notch? Made things a little less urgent? Saved exclamation points for when they really hit the spot?
I, for one, vow to limit myself to one exclamation per exchange. Period.
Thanks for listening. I mean ... Thanks for listening!
For more info:
- "Approval Junkie: Adventures in Caring Too Much" by Faith Salie (Crown Archtype); Also available in eBook and Digital Audio Download formats
More commentaries from Faith Salie:
- Faith Salie on a life well curated
- Some frank words about profanity
- Confessions of an approval junkie
- On a first-name basis
- Death by selfie
- Donald Trump, "The Ugly American"
- "Whom": The object of affection for the grammar police
- Don't take selfies of your food
- Faith Salie shares her pet peeve on "oversharing"
- Spending your vacation days is good for America
- On speaking with "vocal fry"