Don’t curb your enthusiasm. Just find different ways to express it.

June 1, 2009 at 5:27 pm Leave a comment

By Sally Saville Hodge

A recent post by my friend Suzanne Shelton on her Facebook page elicited 10 responses and merits some followup discussion. It read:

Suzanne Shelton wants to gently remind people not to over use exclamation points. It devalues the emphasis, and isn’t a substitute for choosing language that conveys your enthusiasm. More than one per paragraph is far too much. Plus, it’s really annoying

Those pesky, insidious exclamation points. They’re a device that people fall into the bad habit of using. Overusing, to Suzanne’s point. And I am among those guilty as charged.

I think a lot of it stems from the more casual nature of the writing environment.

WarningIt started with e-mail, where early on, you’d find many people completely ignoring rules on capitalization – either eschewing capital letters completely, whether in starting a sentence or using proper names, or playing it safe and just keeping the caps lock key permanently in play. Salutations are more often then not lost, and for that matter, so are name signoffs. Why sign your name when the recipient should know who you are from the e-mail address?

It’s only gotten worse with the spread of texting and Twitter and, yup, Facebook and LinkedIn posts. “Good” writing (with or without exclamation points) is beside the, ahem, point when you’re trying to squeeze a lot of information into a tiny, 140-characters-or-less post. Your communiqués really become something for insiders only, almost like a secret language.

I recently re-read one of my sent e-mails and slapped myself on the side of my head. Four sentences. Four exclamation points. When did I become so darn enthusiastic?

Another overused device that I’ll cop to: the dash – using it as a way to emphasize a point. When I caught myself using it three times in one paragraph, I knew I was overdoing it. I’m making a concerted effort these days to either use colons or parenthesis or just (gasp!) changing the sentence structure to force myself to mend my lazy ways.

While I’m at it, I’d better lose the LOLs, though at least I’m not guilty of writing “hahaha” with every post even when there’s no humorous aspect to it whatsoever.

Lesson, people? Our language can be too beautiful a thing to so abuse. Let’s be careful out there.


Entry filed under: Diabloguer.

If e-mail’s dead, then what’s all this stuff in my inbox? Steve Jobs, Apple and Alfred E. Neuman: “What, Me Worry?”

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