Enough of This!!!

HEY!!

HOW YOU DOING?!? AWESOME!!!!

Ugh.

You see it every day in emails and social media posts. It’s the creeping tyranny of punctuation’s greatest mistake: the exclamation mark.

It started innocently enough. In medieval times, scribes wrote the Latin word “io” at the end of sentences to indicate joy. That morphed into the exclamation mark (or point, if you prefer,) which in more modern times came to represent excitement or urgency. It was used sparingly.

Remember, not that long ago people didn’t really write much – it was left to business memos or the occasional personal letter. But with email, social media and blogs, we’re all writers now, pumping out an endless stream of words that all too often conclude with an exclamation mark.

It’s now gotten to the point that an email without a hearty “Hello!” or “Thanks!” is viewed suspiciously. It seems terse, even angry. So we live in a sea of this punctuation ugliness.

Hemingway only used one exclamation mark in “The Old Man And The Sea.” Cormac McCarthy used five in his epic “Blood Meridian.” But the modern, um, classic “50 Shades of Grey” used 290, says research done by Quartz.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Consider the wise words of crime writer Elmore Leonard when it comes to using exclamation marks: “You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.”

That’s good advice.

Allan Gates

Allan Gates is a partner with Bonfire.