Aleteia

In praise of the exclamation mark!

exclamation mark
Dragana Jokmanovic | Shutterstock
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Especially during a pandemic!

I have a habit that I just can’t resist from time to time. I know it drives people a little crazy — especially my editors — so I try to rein it in, truly. Although, between you and me, I don’t understand why there’s such annoyance at the use of the not-so-humble exclamation point.

The symbol that ends a sentence with joy, excitement, dismay, despair: What’s there not to love?! (Oh yes, the interrobang is another thing of beauty.) People might say it’s a sign of being overly dramatic, or that it’s too intrusive at the end of a sentence and the words that are written should be enough to express these strong emotions.

But for me, it’s a sign of positivity: It’s a sign of being committed, and makes something stand out among the normal script. And if you ask me, it’s needed more than ever.

In a society that increasingly favors texting and emails as a means to communicate, my correspondents get to see that I’m engaged in the conversation, and generally happy to be a part of it. It’s bringing life to words that might otherwise fall a little flat.

Interestingly, I’ve found that during this time of isolation, uncertainty and fear, the exclamation mark has been a really useful tool. We’ve all been deprived of social contact and normal facial expressions. My emphatic punctuation mark at the end of texts, emails, or Facebook posts is my delight or disbelief. It tries to register in a succinct way what I’m feeling.

Do I use it too much? Definitely! Can I help myself? Well, I’ve been known to re-read emails and delete quite a few so people don’t think I’m going overboard. But I do wish that lovely vertical stroke with its delightful point wouldn’t get quite so much bad press. As we learn to navigate through pandemics, remote working, and modern technology the exclamation point can be an emotional ally. Really!!!!

[Note: I am Cerith’s copy editor and I approve this message!!!! For now …]