The Exclamation Mark Debate

An exclamation is a sudden and/or passionate expression of surprise, strong emotion, frustration, complaint, or protest. The way these feelings are expressed in writing is to use one or more exclamation marks. But is using more than one mark considered overkill? Read on.

Using more than one exclamation mark

Somewhere along the line, you’ve probably heard, read, or been taught that using more than one exclamation mark is considered unprofessional. However, in other than in academic or journal writing, that old “rule” may not be applicable. Exclamation marks are useful tools for expression in many kinds of writing. Here’s why.

Exclamation marks set the tone!

Exclamation marks can help to emphasize a point, express excitement, and so on. Example. I’m looking forward to going to Europe next Summer. This is certainly valid and matter-of-fact, but the reader is left wondering how much the writer is looking forward. However, by adding one word and several exclamation marks, the reader will be much more emotionally connected with the writer. I’m really looking forward to going to Europe next Summer! If the writer was really, really looking forward to the travel, more exclamation marks would indicate that level of excitement. I’m really looking forward to going to Europe next Summer!!! And for sheer exuberance, the number of exclamation marks could be even more (!!!!!!!!).

How to use exclamation marks effectively

In business writing—Usage depends on the content and audience. For reports or formal memos, it’s probably wise to stick to one exclamation mark, and even then, they should be used sparingly. You don’t want to wear out your reader(s). However, in more casual communications, do what feels right, within some level of reason. Too many exclamation marks, like typing in all capital letters, can sound like yelling. And unless that’s your goal, tread lightly.

In personal writing—Your writing is less likely to be viewed critically by your audience. You want your reader to really “hear” your voice!!! So, regardless of the positive or negative emotion you want to communicate, you can feel freer expressing yourself using any number of exclamation marks. You can even mix punctuation marks (e.g., ?!) to express a strong concerned question. Example: If you don’t tell me your arrival time, how will I know when to pick you up?!

Conclusion

Like other punctuation marks, the exclamation mark should be used to create the most effective written communication possible. Each time you write or type one (or more), stop for a second to decide how much emphasis you really want to make with that sentence. Then go for it!

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