Grammar follow-up: Thoughts on exclamation points
Before I get to the meat of this blog post—a follow-up to our popular grammar tip sheet—I must first confess: I am anti-exclamation-point.
Maybe it’s because I have an aversion to extremely loud people, overly cheerful people or people who yell at me. Maybe it’s because I am, for the most part, soft spoken. Or maybe it’s simply because, as a writer and editor of many years, I’ve seen exclamation points abused in the most appalling of ways. Oh, the things I have seen.
That being said, I should also admit that, from time to time, I do use them. In e-mails, gchats, IMs and text messages. After a “Sounds good!” Or, “Thanks!” Or, “You’re the best!” In general, exclamation points should be used in personal and/or colloquial communications, rather than in professional communications.
However, because most people do not feel as strongly as I do about this (overly dramatic) form of punctuation, below are my guidelines for the professional use of exclamation points:
- When deciding whether or not to use an exclamation point, always consider your audience. If you’re creating an admissions brochure for students, for example, exclamation points may help generate excitement. On the other hand, if you’re sending a direct mail piece to your leadership donors—generally an older, more conservative group—exclamation points may make your institution appear less professional (and less worthy of their money).
- Never use more than one exclamation point in a sentence. !!!!!!! = overkill.
- Use exclamation points sparingly. You dilute the effect of an exclamation point if you use one at the end of every sentence, or even every paragraph. (Think of it this way: If, in a crowd of people, everyone yells rather than talks, you can’t hear anything, right? But if only one person yells, you hear him loud and clear.)
- Limit the use of exclamation points to body copy. Avoid using them on covers or in headlines. Headlines, by their nature, already stand out.
Whether you love or hate the exclamation point, we welcome your input. For any other exclamation-point or grammar-related questions, please feel free to e-mail me or post your question below.