Sunday, August 24, 2014

On Grammar and Tone

This post is probably going to come across as a little silly.  And also SUPER NERDY.  Bear with me.

I hate exclamation points.

!
Look at it. It's hideous. It's so ostentatious.

This might seem strange to some of you who have interacted with me in person, since I am typically a pretty enthusiastic person.  I have absolutely no problem with exclamations in verbal speech.  You have every right to your enthusiasm.

But I find exclamation points in the written word extremely irritating.  To me, they're kind of the
(sarcasm font, once we figure out how to do that) of enthusiasm.  Realistically, if you are properly excited about something, the words you use should convey that all on their own.  Instead, ending sentences, especially in formal writing, with exclamation points comes across as...half-hearted.  Look at me! See how excited I am! Even though no other part of what I'm saying conveys any sense of excitement! I'm using exclamation points because they're a shortcut to fun!
Now, I think they're fitting in some circumstances.  The difference between "Happy Birthday." and "Happy Birthday!" when relying solely on non-verbal cues can be huge, since most people interpret the first as rather flat and unexcited.  However, when not operating solely on brevity, one shouldn't need !!!!!! to convince them that "Happy Birthday. I hope it is every bit as wonderful and joyful as you deserve." is happy, enthusiastic, and sincere.

Punctuation matters in setting a tone in writing.  But the fact is that, too often, it is a short-hand for actual verbal expression.

Also, people who overuse exclamation points are typically just way too happy for my tastes and probably need to get rained on.  Sorry about it.

Unenthusiastically yours,
Rachel Leigh

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