Earlier today, I was at the gym doing some work-related stuff on my computer (Facebook) and getting ready to prepare some staff training material (YouTube) for our upcoming staff meeting (Atlantic City).
Needless to say, I was somewhat disctracted when the owner of my facility, Alvin, creepily crept up behind me in an unnecessarily creepy manner and scared the bejeesus out of me.
With less than his usual cheer, he hands me a document, and asks, “proofread this?”
“Of course,” I say, with all of the appropriate compliance necessary in a person who was just caught Facebooking at work. “What is it?”
A noncommital shrug. “New promotion we’re going to be running.” For someone who generally makes a good deal of money when we run promotions, he sounds less than thrilled about the prospect. My curiosity piqued, I look down at the paper.
The letter head jumps out. “Ah,” I intoned emotionlessly, “Corporate.” While I am certainly not confined to a cubicle, running a Franchise gym still has enough weight from the shackles of a faceless Higher Power to make all thoughts of “Corporate” somewhat less than appealing.
Still confused as to why my boss is being strangely reticent, I read the text.
Suddenly, I could understand his trepidation.
As my first real mentor, over the course of our eight year association, Alvin has come to know a few things about me—certain strange and somewhat irrational idiosyncratic tendencies that I like to think make me a uniquely interesting person to be around (incredibly strange and annoying).
As you have no doubt come to realize, this document was a physical embodiment of one of those strange idiosyncracies.
One of these things is this: I detest exclamation points.
And this document was covered with them; absolutely riddled with the things.
They were everywhere, jumping out at me, stabbing straight through my eyes and attacking my cerebrum with their inanity. They appeared at the end of nearly every sentence, coming faster and more frequently, daring me, tempting me, taunting me with their false promise of excitement. Mocking me.
My blood was boiling, my heart racing. This was lunacy. No one could be this excited about a sale at gym. Or anything. Seriously.
“We can’t print this. It’s embarassing. I’m going to edit this thing.”
At the risk of rehashing one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes, I truly hate exclamation points. Like…HATE exclamation points; hate them with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns.
And not because I don’t think they have their uses—they do (rarely) it’s that people just overuse them, and usually in incorrect ways.
Okay, so what’s my beef with exclamation points?
Well, simply put, they are the sole property of those who lack talent, imagination, or even a modicum of skill with a pen.
In my humble opinion, your use of exclamation points is inversely propotional to your skill as a writer. Okay, maybe that opinion isn’t exactly humble, but it’s sure as hell justified.
It’s taking the easy way out. English is such a wonderfully, felicitously descriptive language, for both speech and writing. We are lucky enough to have created for ourselves a marvelous toolset for expression so vast that the options for conveying a single thought are nearly limitless.
A talented writer can, with but a few keystrokes, imply sarcasm, anger, joy, or any combination, merely by employing some of more subtle means of communication.
When you have italics, boldface, underscoring, et al available, why bother with something so obtuse as an exclamation point? It’s like using a sledgehammer to swat flies.
Here is an example of the blatant idiocy disseminated by Corporate:
“This is the best deal we’ve ever offered!!! Offer expires September 1st! Only till 10PM! Hurry in!!”
Who the hell writes this? It’s like they got some 14 year old on MySpace, and hired her based on the fact that she had a manageable cocaine habit. They could have written “OMG best sale everrrrr!!!!! Haha join now LOLOLOROFLMAO” and it would be been about as bad.
Seriously, it’s really not that fucking exciting. And you sound like an asshole. Oh, great. Offer expires in a week. I must hurry. Or not, jackass.
Firstly, this is bad copy. Don’t tell me to hurry, because that is stupid. It’s a gym membership, not a bake sale. It’s not like you’re going to run out of cupcakes. Relax killer — the treadmills will still be there if I show up a few minutes late.
Ultimately, when you use too many exclamation points you are saying one of two things:
1) I, the writer, am a moron! I don’t know how to adequately express myself! I could just use more words, but I don’t know any! Instead, I’ll just sound really excited! All the time! I wish I knew how to say things better, but I only made it to 9th grade! How ungood for me! I suck!!!
2) I think that you, the reader, are an idiot. I may be a writer of passing skill, but I have no faith in your ability to comprehend the sheer erudition of my discourse. Whatever means I would use to convey emotion would be lost on you, my poor imbecilic reader. Indeed, were I to resort to more multifacted methods of expression, one so dim as you could not hope to decipher the true tone of my writing. Therefore, being a philanthropist of prose, I will use exclamation points, so that you cannot hope but take my mean. You suck.
All right, that is probably a slight exaggeration, but only slight.
With the occasional exception, exclamation points are generally pointless (no pun intended) and detract a bit from the writing. Those exceptions are generally limited to dialogue, and I suppose there is some merit there.
Even more than I hate single exclamation points, I hate multiple exclamation points.
Not just when they appear all over—when they’re all back to back. The most frequent offender is the triple exclamation point:
“Dude, how sick is True Blood!!! Eric is a beast!!!”
But that’s not the worst of it.
And so, without apology, I say this:
The only thing worse than three exclamation points is TWO exclamation points.
That’s because much like the ellipsis (“…”) often read aloud as “dot-dot-dot” somehow, a triple exclamation point has become sort of accepted as a single punctuation entity.
On the other hand, two exclamation points is just a complete breach of all the writing protocols that have ever existed. Ever.
Two exclamation points is either a typo, or just laziness. Either you meant to type one, and just screwed it up (moron), or meant to type three (bigger moron) and in your breathless haze of excitement, you left out a keystroke (huge moron).
Every time I see something written with two exclamation points, my brain pulls away from my skull and my heart dies a little bit. I swear to god it actually causes me physical pain. Very rarely is life so exciting that you need to exclaim something improperly.
That’s just messed up. It’s like failing at failing.
Learn how to write. Please, for the love of everything right and true, just please stop exclaiming things. You’re really not that excited, I know you’re not.
Oh, wonderful. Just writing about this has gotten me all worked up. Now I’ve gotten myself all excited. I need to lay down.