In the family of punctuation, where the full stop is daddy and the comma is mummy, and the semicolon quietly practices the piano with crossed hands, the exclamation mark is the big attention-deficit brother who gets overexcited and breaks things and laughs too loudly.
Yesterday was National Punctuation Day. As you can see by my use of nine exclamation points, missing it has caused me some serious distress. Had I used a mere six or seven, you may have thought that while I was sad to have missed it, I wasn't inconsolable.
When did we go from hesitating to use an exclamation point, reserving it for only the most deserving of sentences, to thinking the use of only one is halfhearted at best? When did the period at the end of a sentence start denoting irritation or, at the very least, indifference? Nothing sends my daughter into a tailspin quicker than when I answer a text with a "Sure." That period wields more force than a slamming door. She immediately responds with, "What's wrong???" Or "Are you mad at me???" Yes, apparently question marks now travel in groups as well.
Now before my friends and family start fretting over how many exclamation points they used in their last text to me, I must say I'm often guilty of all of the above: the over-exclamation pointing, the fear of a favor being answered with a period, and the redundant question marks. I worry the use of only one exclamation point will send the message that while I'm excited, I'm not that excited.
Clearly, I'm not what Lynne Truss would call "a true stickler." I do, however, love her book, Eats, Shoots & Leaves, and highly recommend it for the stickler and slacker alike. You'll laugh while you learn, which makes for literary magic. It's been around a while, but a book that gives punctuation some personality deserves a shout-out today, or rather, yesterday. For the littles in your life, check out her children's book: Eats, Shoots & Leaves: Why, Commas Really Do Make A Difference!
Posted by Rachel