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.