I’m not kidding about the exclamation point…

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss an article about the exclamation point written by Lauren Katz…

I confess: I sometimes overuse exclamation marks. Mostly, I do this in my personal emails, not my professional ones.

When I work with other writers I tell them, exclamation marks should be reserved for something that’s being exclaimed — for example, wow! or you’re kidding! or I can’t believe it! 

And I tell them that if they feel the urge to use an exclamation point to make their text seem more exciting, they should reword it. I’ve had writers try things like: All our recipes are our own! The exciting event will be held Tuesday! I’ve even had the occasional writer try to use two exclamation marks, like this!!

Once, an editor told me a probably apocryphal story dating back to the days of “hot metal.” This was in the first half of the last century, when molten alloys were injected into moulds in the shape of letters that would be used later used to press ink onto paper. (See photo above.) The editor had a reporter who overused exclamation points, so he took him into the “back shop” and handed him a metal exclamation point.”Here is your allotment of exclamation points for the week,” the editor said.

An amusing story, even if it’s untrue, which it probably is. My friend Hester recently sent me a link to a story by Lauren Katz carrying much the same message about exclamation points. The chart, from the team at HubSpot is amusing, but even funnier is the Seinfeld sketch. Take 1 minute and 13 seconds to watch it and have a laugh.

And remember not to overuse exclamation points. I deliberately ended that sentence with a period.



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