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I have an uneasy relationship with the exclamation point, or "banger" in news room jargon.

For a long time, I used bangers somewhere between sparingly and rarely. To my mind, they make writing seem shrill. But in emails to colleagues and students, I worry that simply ending a message with, say, "thanks" can seem flat at best and grouchy at worst. The exclamation point seems to add an element of cordiality and even cheeriness.

Even at that, I wince each time I type an exclamation point. Then again, I used to feel that way when I transitioned from "e-mail" to "email." It's like I tell my students: Once you start looking at the written word like this, you can never, ever stop. In fact, here's an email I received a few years ago from a former student:

I'm sitting here at work, and I was reading an article on a news site that had a few grammatical errors and a factual error, and it made me crazy, so I wrote an e-mail, and lo and behold, an hour later, the article was amended. A year ago, I probably would have just ignored it. Now it drives me nuts.

Students never believe me when I tell them I'll be messing with their heads. But eventually, they understand.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 16th, 2013 04:30 pm (UTC)
I just read an article on line about a woman who had had a wild house party when she was 16 years old and her parents weren't home. In the article she was quoted as saying her parents had "turned her into the police." I'm fairly certain that they had actually turned her in to the police, but if they did turn her into the police, I wonder how they did it! That could be a great Vegas act or something! Sorry about the exclamation points! I sometimes use them in lieu of a "smiley" emoticon.
Jan. 17th, 2013 12:25 am (UTC)
As for the parents turning their daughter into police, as I often see written:

Jan. 16th, 2013 06:01 pm (UTC)
The Apostrophe
I have the same aversion with the "banger" as you describe. The only time I find myself using it is when it follows a question mark as in "What do I have to do to get a beer around here?!"

I am always conscience of how people use the apostrophe -- especially in a name or plural word ending in "s". For example, for me its "Davey Jones' locker" and not "Davey Jones's locker." When I read the paper and see an editor's use of the apostrophe as I use it, I applaud. When used incorrectly, at least as I deem it so, I want to say (as seen in the above paragraph), "Who taught you how to use an apostrophe?!"
Jan. 17th, 2013 12:23 am (UTC)
Re: The Apostrophe
Your punctuation after "here" is an interrobanger.

You're spot-on with the Davey Jones example. Where I get confused is with a possessive form of a word like "hostess." My Associated Press Stylebook tells me it's OK to write "the hostess's invitation," but if the following word ends in "S," it's not: "the hostess' seat." It confuses me because I pronounce the possessive form of "hostess" the same way in either example.

I'd hate to be someone new to America who has to learn English.
Jan. 17th, 2013 07:34 pm (UTC)
Re: The Apostrophe
Hostess's seat. Ouch. How 'bout businesses' vs. businesses's?
Jan. 17th, 2013 09:56 pm (UTC)
Re: The Apostrophe
I always try to write around stuff like that because I don't want to be right at the expense of looking wrong.
Jan. 16th, 2013 11:56 pm (UTC)
I want my exclamation points to signal enthusiasm or emphasis, but not to the degree that I resemble an exuberant, over-excited, large-footed puppy. It used to drive me CRAZY (yes, shouting there) When my business partner would send an email that looked something like this:

Dear So and So,

Thanks for writing!!!!! It's great to hear from you!!!
Glad to hear your happy at your new job..you go girl!!!

She would end a sentence and move to a new line, but not leave a space in-between paragraphs. "But," she would explain, "it's not a new paragraph. It's just a new sentence."

Gah - I do not miss that one titch.
Jan. 17th, 2013 12:18 am (UTC)
I'm afraid the concept of the paragraph is edging toward the endangered species list.
Jan. 17th, 2013 09:50 am (UTC)
Proof you messed with my head: I am allowed one exclamation point per 10,000 words.
Jan. 17th, 2013 10:10 pm (UTC)
That's rule four, isn't it?
Jan. 22nd, 2013 02:25 am (UTC)
Actually, it's rule two. Rule one is "omit needless words."
Jan. 22nd, 2013 02:34 am (UTC)
I hope whoever said "omit needless words" to you included the attribution for it.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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