the death of the exclamation mark

I love the exclamation mark. If you have ever received an e-mail/message/text from me, you’ve probably seen me use way more !!!!s than necessary. In fact, I almost got an ! tattooed on myself once (actually… I’m still considering it).

But for the past month, I’ve been doing a bit of an experiment. In every e-mail that I wrote, I coldly, systematically, mercilessly, cut out all of the exclamation marks and replaced them with dots. I rephrased any sentences that sounded too severe. Then I sent them.

This experiment was based on something Ramit Sethi (of I Will Teach You To Be Rich) once said in one of his ‘mastering interviews’ videos. It’s good to laugh/smile/show enthusiasm, but if you’re too smiley/bubbly, people may think that you are ditzy and take you less seriously. As a woman who laughs & smiles as a defence mechanism against social anxiety… let’s just say this has been a problem for me before.

And believe it or not, all those laughs and smiles creep into your writing as well. In the form of exclamation marks. Every ! is a (perhaps unnecessary) giggle or smile, and should be used carefully. So I cut them all to see what would happen.

The results have been astonishing. With the change of just one punctuation mark, I instantly felt the tone of replies to my e-mails shift. The tone shifted in a way that reflected that I was being taken seriously. My landlord, normally quite lazy and rude, fixed my broken heating in less than a day, and even e-mailed me to follow up on it (that literally never happens). My thesis partner stopped dicking around and actually did some work. My thesis supervisor responded to my e-mails. In general, I got more responses, and better ones, than ever before.

So from now on, unless strictly necessary, !s are staying out of my professional e-mails. Sorry, friends & family, that means that you probably won’t be able to find the text in my messages among all the compensatory !!!!!s. I might even get one tattooed on me. But I will be careful about using them when it matters.


About Varia

Traveler, writer.
This entry was posted in Life, Work. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to the death of the exclamation mark

  1. jornakat says:

    this is interesting. i will keep this in mind next time i am writing a professional email. also i just had to restrain myself from using one on that last sentence. hehe

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