There was a time when the exclamation point signaled enthusiasm. But everyone’s favorite punctuation mark isn’t as impactful as it used to be. It now has more of a Psycho Killer Qu’est-ce Que C’est vibe. That’s! What! Happens! When! You! Use! Too! Many! Exclamation! Points!
The exclamation point didn’t lose its power overnight, however. We’ve been watering down its effectiveness for years!!!!!!!!!!!
Back in the seventies, you could write someone a note saying “I can’t wait to see Hall & Oates this weekend!” and not seem like a total lunatic. That simple exclamation point at the end would signal earnest excitement.
Not anymore. Now if you text someone “I can’t wait to see Hall & Oates this weekend!” they’ll reply “what the fuck are you talking about you over-enthusiastic sicko” (no end punctuation).
Why did our understanding of the exclamation point shift so drastically? We can, and should, blame text messages! When texting culture began, no one knew how to read tone on their phone screens. Something as simple as a “good to see you” text could be read sarcastically, and then lead to a “u mad, bro?” reply, followed by a “no, it was good to see you!!!!!” follow-up. And thus a million unnecessary exclamation points were born!
It’s sad because exclamation points used to be so fun! But now they reek of desperation!
No one really knows how or when the exclamation point was born. One theory points to the Latin word “io,” which means “hurray” and used to be printed at the end of sentences to signify joy. Apparently, an old medieval calligrapher got a little too excited and smushed the “i” and the “o” together and somehow the “!” was born. Or maybe they were drunk! Who knows!
But here’s what we do know!
Using one exclamation point makes you look crazy! Using two exclamation points makes you look like an asshole!! Using three exclamation points makes you look like you’re trying too hard!!! Using four exclamation points makes you look like a sociopath!!!! And using five or more exclamation points makes you look like all of the above!!!!!!!!!!
So use your exclamation points wisely! Or better yet, don’t use them at all.