Please Read This Important Message!!! by @EdenBaylee


I wrote a similar piece some years back, so I’m plagiarizing my own work with this article.

If you guessed that I’m writing about the overuse of the exclamation mark again—you are correct!!!

The Internet has made communicating so easy there is a tendency to disregard grammar. That goes for texts, emails, blogs, and comments on all social media platforms. In today’s electronic age, the skill to communicate is not only determined by how well we write, but also by how familiar we are with emojis like smiley or sad faces, acronyms like ROFL, LOL, ICYMI, and bolding of words to create emphasis. All these tools are meant to help us express our thoughts more clearly, but have they made us lazy writers in the process? 

When someone writes a sentence using all uppercase letters, I imagine them screaming at me. If they also bold it, they’re screaming even louder. If they punctuate the sentence with several exclamation marks … it’s downright deafening. 


The Chicago Manual of Style says the exclamation mark “should be used sparingly to be effective.” This seems to follow that historically, it was only used when absolutely necessary to add inflection to a sentence. 

I’d also like to add that one will suffice. Forming a small army of exclamation marks to assault your reader is unnecessary. It’d be like the boy who cried exclamation mark. If you use it all the time, people will soon realize you have nothing to exclaim. 


Unfortunately, electronic communication has seen a rise in the overuse of the exclamation mark, certainly when writing informally. In this type of conversation, we often rely on crutches to carry meaning—the use of a sad face emoji rather than carefully choosing the right words to express grief. So instead of demonstrating excitement through the meticulous structuring of a sentence, it’s easier to use an exclamation mark – or three or ten for that matter! 

While a quick text message to a friend with exclamation marks conveys enthusiasm more quickly than words, the excessive use of them can make a writer appear immature and unsophisticated. It’s important to consider your audience and the context of the message before using exclamation marks as a substitute for well-thought-out language. 

What are your thoughts on the exclamation mark? Do you use it rarely or often? 

Feel free to share, thanks!

Keep well, 
eden 🥰

Comments

I think I may have used one in my last novel. The same applies to dialogue tags; use only when necessary.
Peter Leyland said…
What an interesting subject. There is a whole section on it on David Crystal’s ‘Making a Point‘ - I put one at the end of my How I discovered Flash Fiction piece as an expression, I suppose, of enjoyment. Also in my last one I used it stylistically for drum beats in a memoir piece. Crystal mentions A. A. Milne’s witty use in Winnie the Pooh, if you have the book.

Thanks. It will give me pause for thought.
Interesting. I tend to use (or overuse) these exclamation marks only in communications such a FB messenger, and emojis sparingly since they are just a nuisance unless you knowhow to quickly find them... Long ago, the smiley/sad face was done using punctuation marks and it was useful, as it is now, without all the extra variations... Three dots - I also find myself overusing those (in order to indicate a pause) in messages to friends.

However, in a novel, this this a different context. They only belong in dialogue (and emojis don't belong in novels at all). I hope they don't invade novels.

My take on this is that it is all a consequence of typing instead of talking. That, and the fun those who create them have had with designing emojis. Human nature (exclamation mark, dot, dot, dot) etc.
Eden Baylee said…
Hi Glen, thanks for your comment. Just one? You're good!

Yes, dialogue tags ... I can write a whole post on this too. Now, there's an idea for next month.

Hope you're well,

eden
Eden Baylee said…
Hi Peter, thanks for commenting and the references you provided. I use the exclamation mark sparingly in my prose, but for casual conversations, I use it more liberally.

It also depends on who I'm writing for. In this group of writers, for example, and in these comments, I'm less rigorous with grammar. You'll probably see an exclamation mark to proclaim excitement/happiness/just plain silliness.

I won't add more than one though. That's just overkill!

;)
eden

Eden Baylee said…
Hi Clare,

Emojis and exclamation marks have certainly added to written, colloquial communication by allowing writers to express themselves differently. I wouldn't expect to see emojis in a novel, but I'll never say never!

Instead of stringing words together, we choose images, symbols, memes ... Some communication can seem lifeless without them, especially quick texts between friends. Perhaps it's to alleviate the boredom for people who don't like to write? ;)

Have a great Sunday,
eden
Sessha Batto said…
I don't think I have ever used one in fiction. In a text or email, though, I do use them to substitute for tone of voice and body language to express enthusiasm. So, guilty as charged
Eden Baylee said…
Sessha! So great to see you. I'm sure I've used more than one, and probably one too many on occasion.

I know I use them in texts and informal convo to express enthusiasm.

Hope you are well, my friend, xox

Brian George said…
Yes, you are correct. I have noticed that I tend to use them when chatting or on emails, but never in my novels. On social media for effect maybe, because the dialogue is so short. I have been trying to correct myself even on Social media. Hey ho, but I never get too angry about grammar, certainly not on my copywriting because we sometimes deliberately use bad grammar to get a point over or to get noticed. Novels are different but that is why we have editors anyway. I'm a storyteller not a grammarly fart. I have often compared some old writers like Dickens and Wilkie Collins with today's edits, and I doubt if they'd get published today as they did then. I love to read and re-read sentences and pages of overworked adjectives and it is then that I get angry with things like the Chicago style people, who gives them the right eh?
Brian
Eden Baylee said…
Great comment Brian. It's good to have a reference manual like Chicago Style. I'm a firm believer that writers should know the foundations of grammar when writing.

You can only break the rules when you know the rules! Otherwise, you're just fucking up!

:D
Umberto Tosi said…
So true! I foresee social media messages consisting entirely of emojis, hashtags, ampersands, punctuation marks, and acronyms- e-hieroglyphs for a brave new, WTF future. I love your ironic use of graphics to make your points! Well done!
Eden Baylee said…
Hahah Umberto, I'm guilty of much of this for social media! Thanks for YOUR sense of humour to start off my week!

:D

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