I hate exclamation points. Okay hate is too strong of a word. I’m anti-exclamation point. When I read them I feel like people are shouting at me. When I write them I feel like I have written poorly because I shouldn’t need to rely on an exclamation point to get across the excitement or power of what I have written. They seem kind of lazy. Plus, I’m not really an exclamation point kind of person.
I know someone who cries when I cook her waffles (yeah, you know who you are). I am the mother of someone who does exuberant tuck jumps while waving her arms in the air and cheering when her watermelon plant sprouted. I know someone else who talks so fast, and with so much conviction that each word seems to be accompanied by an invisible exclamation point.
I’m not those people. I like the steady, plain, no frills, simple period. Period. I don’t hang up curtains, I don’t wear sequins, I barely put on makeup unless you count chapstick. Simple, casual, what you see is what you get. Like a period. That nice, round little dot at the end of a sentence. That inconspicuous, unpretentious point that lets the words do all the talking and demands nothing for itself.
This pretty much works for professional writing. Unless I’m writing for certain websites (here are some pieces in which, yes, exclamation points have been inserted into my pieces. I can neither confirm nor deny that I placed them there myself).
But when it comes to other kinds of communication, like the kind between people that isn’t in the form of an essay or blog post, exclamation points seem to be creeping in (as does the smiley face).
I live in the digital age. The age of texting and Facebook and email and Twitter. The age when so much communication is done without sound or visuals. No tone of voice, no face or hand gestures, no body language.
I’ve heard people say that a text without an exclamation point or smiley face makes me sound angry. Why can’t it make me sound neutral? Or stable? Or happy and excited? Or sincere? Why do I have to shout my texts at people? Or my Facebook messages?
At first I thought I would just refuse all uses of the exclamation point and insist on using the period. But when people on Facebook wonder if I’m resentfully wishing them a plain old Happy Birthday or if they assume I’m pissed when I accept an invitation via text with a basic, ‘Ok,’ that’s not cool for my relationships.
So I guess I’ll concede. On social media. Sometimes. But let it be known that if I use an exclamation point here or in an email or *gasp* in a published essay, it was with great intention and possibly against my will and better judgment!
How do you feel about exclamation points?
*image via Wikimedia