In many ways, the exclamation point is considered to be the cop out king of punctuations. The idea goes that strong, thoughtful writing shouldn’t require an exclamation because the exclamation should be contained within the words. You might compare using the exclamation point to over-salting otherwise bland food, or adding heaps of sugar to your poorly brewed coffee.
Since the anti-climactic dawn of the 21st century, I would argue that we have seen the return of the exclamation point, owing in part to our continued reliance on virtual communication. In short, we find ourselves in fewer situations in which we can audibly convey our surprise, our gratitude, our excitement – and we’ve turned to the exclamation point to carry us through.
Expressing tone and feeling is especially problematic in the professional world. How else are we to convey enthusiasm in our short and sweet virtual messages to colleagues? What about our emails – which tend to be a bit longer, but no less devoid of emotion? Professionally speaking, emoticons are not quite there yet. Perhaps in five more years it will be acceptable to smiley-face a client, or place a sad face in the subject field of an “I’m-sorry-I’m-late-getting-this-to-you” apology email to your manager. But, until then, all we have available to us is the bubbly exclamation point, and we’re going to have to find a way to live together.
How to Use the Exclamation Point So Your Writing Doesn’t Read Like Kimmy Schmidt Looks
As with nearly everything in life, the secret here is moderation: yes, you should utilize the exclamation point; but, no, you shouldn’t flog others over the head with it.
To moderate your exclamation points, try choosing a verb that conveys your exclamation, paired with a thoughtful adverb. In doing so, you may find that your messages become stronger and more meaningful. For example: Instead of, “Thanks for your time!” consider, “I genuinely appreciate your time.” Although the former sentence is by no means disingenuous, the latter sentence is more believable, i.e., I would be more likely to believe the latter sentence if I read it in an email.
But by no means should we drop the exclamation point from our repertoire. It has a purpose and a place, and sometimes it’s the best choice. Imagine omitting an exclamation point from the following LinkedIn message to a colleague: “Congratulations on your promotion.”
That just wouldn’t “sound” right!