Punc­tu­a­tion po­lice go af­ter ex­cla­ma­tion point

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times Trends - Emma Gold­berg

Mered­ith Golden says that find­ing your soul­mate on Tinder is easy, as long as you swear off one vice. It isn’t cig­a­rettes or cheese fries. It’s slim­mer, sneakier. That car­di­nal sin: the ex­cla­ma­tion point. “Punc­tu­a­tion should not be ex­ces­sive, es­pe­cially in an open­ing mes­sage,” said Golden, who ghost­writes for those strug­gling on the dat­ing apps. She has seen too many hopes dashed by an overly en­thu­si­as­tic greet­ing.

Con­ve­niently, her rules also ap­ply to the work­place. The sly devil is just as loath­some in the of­fice, where it has been said to ring un­pro­fes­sional. So much so that Tami Reiss, a prod­uct strate­gist, cre­ated a Gmail plug-in called Just Not Sorry, that alerts users when they’ve ex­ceeded the ap­pro­pri­ate num­ber of marks (two) in a work email.

“This isn’t Ve­gas on a girls trip,” said Reiss. “The triple ex­cla­ma­tion point is great when your best friend just got en­gaged, but at work, it can come off as ju­ve­nile.”

The ex­cla­ma­tion point is more than five cen­turies old, but it can eas­ily be mis­taken for the runt of the punc­tu­a­tion fam­ily. It wants your for­give­ness and at­ten­tion. It wants undy­ing love, while you’re at it. The mark is to gram­mar what a Red Sox fan is to base­ball, in­sist­ing it’s the un­der­dog yet com­ing out on top, spilling its beer on your lap in ex­al­ta­tion.

To Jonny Sun, a writer on “BoJack Horse­man” and a vi­ral tweeter, the ex­cla­ma­tion point is the wild child. “It’s a re­bel­lion against the weighty rules of gram­mar that were passed down to us,” he said. “The ex­cla­ma­tion point is a way of say­ing we’re buck­ing these rules be­cause they feel old fash­ioned and dusty.” The pe­riod, in con­trast, “feels like a sigh.”

Re­gard­less of the in­tent be­hind its us­age, many ex­cla­ma­tion point skep­tics re­main. Beth Dunn, a prod­uct ed­i­tor at HubSpot, made a flow chart in­di­cat­ing it’s only ap­pro­pri­ate for an emer­gency: “Hey! I’m on fire.”

Ly­dia Horne of Wired mag­a­zine, stopped us­ing the mark in Fe­bru­ary. “A cleanse is good for the writ­ing metabolism,” she said. She added that the point can serve as a crutch; toss­ing it helped her to find more pre­cise lan­guage to ex­press her emo­tions.

Getty Im­ages/iStockphot­o


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