I read a few words today on a social networking web-site, that suggested the over use of the exclamation mark, indicates that the person is either happy or feminine. Since I was a child I’ve been almost afraid of using one exclamation mark never mind two or three. This was nipped into me as a child by an over-enthusiastic teacher – his enthusiasm was misplaced as pinching my ear hard with his fingers and pulling me around didn’t convince me that he was keen to teach us, rather just bully us! I wasn’t the only one to suffer… I’m not even sure we deserved such pinching? Nevertheless, the exclamation mark has been a little difficult for me to use. I do use it, sometimes too to excess, especially in text messages, which are of course private and where poor spelling, grammar and punctuation is forgivable, and where I sometimes need it to demonstrate my passion and get my point across; the exclamation mark has it’s uses.
I was taught, or rather persuaded, that over use of the exclamation mark indicated madness. And it’s just occurred to me today that in all the years I’ve concerned myself about it, I could have just simply asked someone else and, could have been Googling to find a more definitive opinion – you know, from a proper scholar. I have Googled and to bore you further, here’s a little something I found on Wikipedia; citation probably required…
A sentence ending in an exclamation mark is an actual exclamation (“Wow!”, “Boo!”), the imperative mood (“Stop!”), or intended to be astonishing or show astonishment: “They were the footprints of a gigantic hound!” Exclamation points can also be placed mid-sentence with a function similar to a comma: “On the walk, oh! there was a frightful noise.”
The exclamation mark is sometimes used in conjunction with the question mark. This can be in protest or astonishment (“Out of all places; the squatter-camp?!”) however this can be replaced with a single, nonstandard punctuation mark, the interrobang, which is the union of a question mark and an exclamation point. Again, this is informal.
Overly frequent use of the exclamation mark is generally considered poor writing, for it distracts the reader and reduces the mark’s meaning.
Cut out all those exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own jokes.
—F. Scott Fitzgerald
Some authors however, most notably Tom Wolfe, are known for unashamed liberal use of the exclamation mark. In comic books, the very frequent use of exclamation mark is common.
For information on the use of spaces after an exclamation mark, see the discussion of spacing after a full stop.
One study has shown that women use exclamation marks more than men do.
This doesn’t help my psyche at all when I try them out – I’ll continue to use the exclamation mark, however, with a little trepidation. If it helps me put my point across then I’ll risk the psycho-anguish; and simply hope that any pedants around or grammar police won’t throw me in jail, without passing Go!!!
Just a thought…