Yup, exclamation points. You remember learning about them in school. ”An exclamation point is used to show strong feeling or emotion such as excitement, surprise, shock, warning. Now, according to the punctuation police, we are using too many exclamation points, especially in Face Book posts. There is even a word for the overuse of !!!: bangorrhea. Sounds disgusting, doesn’t it?
But here’s my argument for their use. In face to face conversation, you use your tone and volume of voice, your facial expression, even body language to convey feeling in your words. In writing such as email or Face Book today, people are using the written word in a conversational way. Absent voice, the exclamation point provides stage directions.
Oddly enough, in one of those “Memories” Face Book sends out, I received one from September 14, 2009. I copy it here with additions that would serve as stage directions.
Going to my 10-year-old granddaughter’s first field hockey game this afternoon. First semester at Tufts, in gym class [required], they made us play field hockey. I had one goal: don’t get hurt!!! (Raise voice and show excited facial expression) When I’d see the other team running at me with their sticks, I’d just get out of the way!!! (Speak a bit breathlessly, with determination) Many would yell at me, and I didn’t care!!! (Speak adamantly, emphasize “I didn’t care.)
So if you want to respond to someone who posts about a new job, a weight loss, a new house, a baby, do you really want to respond in a monotone as it were? Of course not. Doesn’t “Wow” deserve more than one exclamation point? You want to show excitement for them, shared pleasure, some drama. They can’t hear it in your voice, so you’ll throw in a few exclamation points. What’s the harm?
Life is too short to worry about overuse of exclamations points anyway!!!
Dorothy C. Judd © 2016
Next post: Sept. 26th