Exclamation marks are a form of shouting – journalists call them screamers for a good reason. And if you’re writing for professional purposes, you don’t want to shout. After all, you wouldn’t shout at the person if you were phoning them instead of emailing them, would you?
F Scott Fitzgerald, who knew a thing or two about stringing a sentence together, said that using an exclamation mark is “like laughing at your own joke.”
Author and journalist Miles Kington chipped into the debate too.
“So far as good writing goes, the use of the exclamation mark is a sign of failure,” he said. “It is the literary equivalent of a man holding up a card reading ‘laughter’ to a studio audience.”
It’s fine to use the occasional exclamation mark in a blog, email or tweet if you use it judiciously. It can be used for emphasis, or to show that you are being ironic, or to lift the mood. Exclamation marks are useful for grabbing attention (eg help!) Just go easy on them. When you’re reading over your copy before sending it or posting it, ask yourself if the same sentence works just as well without the exclamation mark. If it does, drop it.
If you do use exclamation marks, then do make sure you only use one at a time. Avoid using an exclamation mark like this!! Or even this!!!
Have you ever felt the urge to combine it with a question mark?! Don’t – this has the unfortunate result of making you look like an over-excited eight year old rather than the serious professional you are.