Reclaiming the Exclamation Mark


On the train!!!!

The lost role of the exclamation mark in language

The exclamation mark is a very useful tool in writing. Just one vertical line with a dot directly underneath it can show surprise, shock, delight, bemusement, outrage and even raise the volume of a sentence to a shout or a scream.

Used sparingly it can add punch to a paragraph, and even make you jump.

In the digital world of smileys and superlatives, the exclamation mark is used like loose change, and not only in the singular. As an exclamation mark at the end of just about every chatty sentence has become the norm, whole regiments of them are growing all over the digifield, like weeds.

I’m serious!
No, really!!!!!!!

A caricature of yourself

If you got an actor to read aloud to you what your exclamation-ridden words would sound like, if spoken, you might be shocked at the over-loud, caricature you have digitally morphed into.

Vast crowds of digital realm citizens are now shouting drunkenly at each other and the number of exclamation marks at the end of sentences is going up, up, up!!!!!!

The result? Our genuine exclamations are turning into ineffective whispers, and we are becoming hype-addicts, not quite believing that awesome means awesome. And that leads to true awesome, our ability to be authentically surprised, disappearing over the distant horizon. Then mediocrity becomes the norm, bigged up as excellence.

Wait a moment…

Of course, playing at being a bigger, louder, larger-than-life, zipper and more extrovert you might be something you are enjoying. You might find this loudness refreshing, releasing and even freeing. If that is so, enjoy it, but still beware of the diminishing returns of being over-loud too often. You can end up like the boy who cried wolf. Your genuine shout-outs simply become less credible as people adjust to your always-loudness. Even if you exclaim-binge now and then, ensure that you can use it mindfully and skilfully, when you consciously choose to/

An alternative?

Try this:

Be more mindful about your online exclaiming. Get out of the compulsive need to !!!!!!!.

Choose when to use them and be authentic and truthful. Re-read some of your emails, texts or chat messages and see if the content might work just as well, or even better, “calmed down”, i.e. delete the unneeded exclamation marks

Savour each one. Enjoy their use as a creative tool to express your true feelings – surprise, shock, confusion, delight or indignation.

Then you might just find that real exclamation helps you to discover real awesome.

Indeed, yes.

About Paul Levy

Paul is a writer, thinker, facilitator, theatre-maker, and conversifier. He is the author of the book, Digital Inferno.

Posted on October 26, 2014, in Key themes. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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