Saturday, February 12, 2011

Explanation of Exclamation

I think using exclamation points in writing is often the equivalent to jabbing someone in the ribs and saying "You're supposed to laugh here," or "You're supposed to be shocked here." It's a crutch for people who know they haven't evoked those emotions with the actual prose, or at least feel insecure about their ability to do so.

Exclamation points are great; don't get me wrong. If I write to friends on Facebook chat or MSN messenger and they respond with "Hey!" it puts my mind at ease that they actually want to talk to me. Plain ol' "Hey" is just polite. Laid back polite. "Hi" reads curt. Almost angry. But, "Hi!"? It reads much more friendly, but also kind of sarcastic for some reason. "Hello" is also a bit cold, but it shows more effort in typing because there are more letters in the word. You wouldn't put that effort in if you didn't want to talk to someone would you?

If you write my name after "Hi," or "Hey," I'll know you care. Plus, it will also show that you remember my name -- or at least remember how to spell it. My name is Ashley Ashbee and people tend to confuse the second syllables: "Ashlee" for my first name or, less commonly, "Ashbey" for my last name.

I'm actually not neurotic, though.


  1. Ah, Ashley, this made me smile. I agree with you! It also reminded me of one of my pet peeves. One exclamation point, or one question mark, is sufficient. What's the point in using multiples of them? I hope you are having a terrific weekend!

  2. Hmmmm . . . . I use explanation points too much. Especially in comments. I guess when you have only a few lines to get your point across they sort of become necessary . . . that or I just really don't know how to convey enthusiasm in writing. :D

  3. Well, howdy there! Ashlee Ashbee!!!

    Well, it is like a problem in Information Theory. How much of the message sent is found in the message received. An ambiguous signal from the sender leaves room for misinterpretation by the receiver. Or a perceptual bias on the part of the receiver twists the meaning of the message sent. In information theory, the amount of discrepancy between the message sent and the message received is referred to as 'noise'.

    Written communications can be easily misinterpreted ( are noisy) sometimes. They lack many of the clues we pick up from one another in face-to-face conversation. The intonation, or inflection in the voice, the body language, and the eyes. These all aid in understanding the meaning behind the words spoken. So, in writing we compensate by underscoring words or phrases, punctuating them (!), capitalizing key words, or altering the font. If two people know each other very well, perhaps the words speak quite simply and clearly for themselves, or the meanings can be read even between the lines.

    Bye!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! : )

  4. Hi? I love this post!!!!!!!!!! It's great!!!!!!!! And I'm a jackass!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Cheryl - Aw, thanks. Great point about multiples. I do that sometimes, but just when I'm being silly.

    Achieve - I argue that exclamation points, if overused or used to emphasize meaning, usually achieve the opposite of their desired effect. People can convey this in few words if it's written well. Thanks for your comment!

    Mythopolis - Yes, perceived messages depend on so many things besides the actual words. This can be very problematic in writing where things like inflection are absent. Thanks!

    A Beer - Welcome to my blog! I was counting on at least one person abusing exclamations in a comment on this post... It was cute, though. Thanks!

  6. These are the things that keep me up nights.

  7. So how do you convey enthusiasm in a comment without overusing exclamation points?

    I really like your dog. -blah?-

    I really like your dog! -enthusiastic?-

    Or I guess you could use italics. I really like you dog. -gives emphasis; is this most correct?-

    Which way would you write it? I think I just prefer to use exclamation points but maybe I'm just lazy hehe. I'm confused though, how does it convey the opposite? Heck, it's been so long since I've studied punctuation or grammar or anything that I may just have it all wrong lol.