Thursday, March 18, 2010

Overly Enthusiastic? Apparently so.

I realized today that I tend to overuse exclamation points. OR the rest of the world just seems to under-use them. Being an expert on grammar, I’m sorry to say that I until today, I did not know the real convention on how often you are supposed to use them, though I had in inkling that it should be in moderation. I knew that exclamation marks are used to convey enthusiasm, urgency, excitement, or strong emphasis. Yet, I was not sure if there were rules about how many you should use per document, or how often. Being a generally enthusiastic person, I think many of my sentences should end with an exclamation. However, when I find myself re-reading work emails that I am about to send to coworkers to see if I exclaimed too much, I realize that I may be going a little overboard. Nevertheless, one of the many grammar rules I learned in my copious English education is that rules are made to be broken. Once you pass your classes, grammar is at your discretion. A true “writer” can choose to ignore it as they please if it suits the character of their work to do so (as long as they can convince their editor into going along with it).

It’s interesting. Even though I like to use them frequently, I sometimes get offended by the exclamation points of others. For example, if someone puts in an email, “I need this done asap!!!!” I am thinking to myself, obviously I will work on it quickly, no need to really rub in the point. Actually, I think that it may not be just the exclamation, but using multiple punctuation marks in general. One is enough, thank you very much.

Luckily, I am provided with an online subscription to the Chicago Manual of Style courtesy of my line of work (writing and proofreading). So I decided to put an end to all the mystery and see what the powers that be had to say about my enthusiastic nature. Turns out, I was right. I have been exclaiming far too often. By definition:

“An exclamation point (which should be used sparingly to be effective) marks an outcry or an emphatic or ironic comment.”

They also agree that exclamations can often be seen by others as contemptuous, so emailer beware! Though I think their definition should be modified to include something about excitement and joy (the emotions I think most often warrant exclaiming) I appreciate them clearing that issue up. I suppose I’ll have to tone it down a notch from now on.

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