So Over Exclamations

Despite slowly developing a reputation around the office for being a punctuation snob, I decided to continue with this blog about exclamations marks – specifically their overuse within advertising.

If I receive an email and the subject line says, Read This!!!! I’m certainly NOT going to read it, no matter who or what company sent it. To me, exclamation overuse is far more dissuasive than persuasive; it provokes a reverse-psychology effect, rather like the boy who cried wolf or the way in which the word awesome no longer describes something that inspires awe.

In the context of advertising – why would any respectable marketer feel the need to use so many exclamation points in any ad or promotion trying to persuade people to buy their product or service? Its overuse, and sometimes if it’s unwarranted, even its use, is unprofessional and a sure sign of poor writing.

One of my favorite quotes on this matter came from F Scott Fitzgerald when he was proofreading the work of one of his principals; An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke. And if you remember this the next time you see it being abused, you will probably agree.

Of course, in today’s popular mediums of communication such as text messages, a writer has a very short space in which to communicate his or her message, so the overuse of exclamation points can be somewhat excused, but in advertisements when a company has paid good money to represent itself to the public? Copywriters should know better.

A good writer can convey tone in words alone, in fact, very rarely – except in cases of speech – do they need an exclamation mark. After all, if it’s used in every paragraph, how is the reader to differentiate what is really meant as an exclamation? An exclamation mark is supposed to communicate an unusual emotion, an emotion that you don’t have every day and certainly not every sentence.

So this is a blog really in disguise as a plea to all those reading to have some self-discipline and ration the use of the exclamation mark for circumstances to which they themselves might actually exclaim. If not, over time, this Tyrannosaurus Rex of punctuation will lose its meaning as well as its impact and go the same way as the extinct creature itself.

If you feel yourself succumbing to the temptation of over-exclamation, stop and think –  does what you’re saying really justify its use? If so, go right ahead, but if not, leave it out and learn to trust your own writing. Instead of abusing this poor punctuation mark, try using the right words to effectively communicate your message.

So, I hope I’ve made my point and communicated the fact that this is a topic of frustration for me, because I did it without using one exclamation point. I’ll leave you to decide…

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