Is the exclamation mark used too frequently?
or should we be free to scatter it across our pages as often as we like?
Yesterday my husband made a ‘constructive comment’ about my overuse of exclamation marks and it’s made me have a think about how often I use them.
When I’m writing I am aware that I use them a lot, and often do go back and edit my work and sometimes remove a few. However, this made me think more about their use, what they are really for and whether I do in fact overuse them.
What is an exclamation mark?
The Oxford English Dictionary explains an exclamation mark as to ‘end sentences that express an exclamation (Ow! That hurt! or Hello! How are you?), direct speech that represents something shouted or spoken very loudly (‘Look up there!’ she yelled) or something that amuses the writer (Included on the list of banned items was ‘crochet hooks’!)’
One blog on hubspot comments on how these ‘hardworking little symbols’ are ‘the smiley faces of the punctuation world, but it also warns that using punctuation to express how you feel about something is lazy writing. Whilst I tend to restrict the use of emoticons to text messages, I like to convey the tone in which I am writing something to my reader and feel that the exclamation mark can do this.
“using punctuation to express how you feel about something is lazy writing”
I tend to lean to a more formal style of writing in emails to people I don’t know and wouldn’t dream of using emoticons in those. I don’t use ‘text speak’ and I use proper punctuation in text messages, with the exception of the odd ‘LOL’ for special occasions.
In a study by Frank McAndrew, of Knox College in Galesburg, participants were asked to judge the emotional tone of an email, decipher the relationship the writer had with the recipient, and guess the writer’s gender. Those that had a overuse of exclamation marks were thought to be feminine or happy. Maybe that’s it. I’m a woman, and I can’t help it.
“I’m a woman, and I can’t help it”.
I have written this post whilst being careful to restrain my use of exclamation marks. It’s not easy but I’ve done it, but feel that my level of excitement around what I’m writing has not been well conveyed and my enthusiasm is somewhat dampened. I feel the need for a frowny face or an exclamation mark there but I’ll resist for now as I’ve found this handy flow chart by Beth Dunn to help me keep the little rogues in check.
I looked back at the offending post which led to this blog and counted four occasions when I used the mark, and perhaps I could have done without them, but hey, I’m a happy, feminine person and it wouldn’t be me without them!
How do you feel about the way we write and how it has changed with the use of mobile phones and email? Do you use emoticons and should you cut back? Let me know 😉