Here is a word of warning. If you are a person that like to use exclamation marks a lot then you won’t appreciate this post where I am lambasting that action. It is a grammatical pet peeve of mine. Traditionally, exclamation marks are used to indicate strong feeling but exclamation marks have been frequently open to abuse.
Here are some common examples of the misuse of exclamation marks:
Look at me! I’m funny!!!
The amount of times I have read captions and short snippy one-liners containing the use of puns that are intended to be jokey or witty but are actually, to put it bluntly, a little dull and mediocre. To be fair, this is just a matter of opinion, and no-one is obliged to give a rats’ bottom about mine. But adding an overload of exclamation marks is a bit like giving yourself a round of applause, and the best humour (in my opinion) is unwitting, natural, and candid.
Urgent! You cannot afford to miss this opportunity!!!
A lot of advertisers are most guilty of this; Using capital letters and contrasting colours to hypnotise and demand attention from potential clientele, and of course the complimentary exclamation marks to overwhelm and convince folk that the amazingly cheap price / great offer / whatever is a good deal. SEO copywriters are constantly using techniques that will make their content stand to attention and hold the interest of the audience. Audiences will probably be impervious to tacky tactics like overuse of exclamation that make a business message sound juvenile.
Oh My God! The Drama of the situation!!!
This is done more in informal chats via email or SMS. Some people need telling that 7 exclamation marks aren’t necessary to enunciate the fact that they are in excruciating pain after stubbing their toe, or they can’t believe that so-and-so won X-Factor. The overload in marks of exclamation is not going to make me realize the gravity of the ‘situation’; it will just make me think you are a drama queen / king. Also, it looks like the messenger is shouting at their audience to demand attention; in much the same way as an overuse of capital letters does, so therefore comes across as arrogant and obnoxious. We have words to convey eagerness and strong feelings. Marks of exclamation should only be used when necessary.
Although to contradict my incessant whining about them, I’m not saying they are entirely unnecessary. Here’s how they could be used appropriately.
- Often one exclamation mark is sufficient to express enthusiasm and strength of feeling. If you feel that one underestimates the gravity of the message, use powerful language instead. This is how SEO copywriters write their content.
- For example, an arrangement to meet a friend for lunch will sound more joyful if you respond to an arrangement with “Great! See you soon”, rather than “Great. See you soon.” The latter sounds quite apathetic about the event.
It has been theorized that the exclamation mark’s origin is a Latin declaration of joy as it comes from the term “note of admiration”.
Although the mark has been used in English printing since the 15th century, it didn’t feature on typewriters till into the 1970’s.
So it may be worth remembering how overusing certain punctuation marks can actually repel rather than attract attention. If you want attention from your audience, just be yourself and let your content flow naturally then it will be easy to see what a competent bunch of SEO copywriters we are!