11.19.2010

Exclaim More. Point Less.

Amy Mac Exclamation Point

As of today, I’ll be running a regular feature on the Amy Mac blog which aims at improving basic writing skills around the world. Heck, let’s go big and say around the solar system. If we are attacked by Martians, we’ll find it helpful if their “take us to your leader” note is well-written and succinct.

Let’s start with the exclamation point, a woefully overused punctuation mark. I blame email for the overuse of the exclamation point. It is difficult to convey emotion and intention in this brief and slightly informal method of communication, so we lean heavily on the exclamation point to show we’re happy, excited, frustrated, or to ease the tone of a negative message.

Unfortunately, this practice has trickled into other communications platforms including web sites, annual reports, marketing collateral and letters which deserve more gravity than 15 exclamation marks can possibly provide.

Amy Mac’s Wonderful World of Writing Well Rule #1:

A little less exclamation -- a few more action words, please.

In other words: convey your emotion with a descriptive action word (or two) and put a period at the end of the sentence.

Imagine you are writing a letter to a potential customer to extol the virtues of your business over a competitor's. If you write:

“We are the best dog biscuit bakers in town, and we know you’ll agree!”

you sound a bit like an already peppy cheerleader who combined a Red Bull and three shots of espresso in her coffee to ill effect.

On the other hand, if you write:

“Doggone Good Biscuit Bakers bakes our dog treats daily, fetching the freshest ingredients available to ensure a scrumptious snack for man’s best friend. Our roster of satisfied, loyal customers (human and canine) will assure you we are the best dog biscuitbakers in town.”

Not an exclamation point in sight, but a much more convincing pitch.

I’m not suggesting you eliminate exclamation points from your writing completely – but remember, they have a place … and it isn’t at the end of every single sentence. Use them sparingly and you’ll find your communications are taken more seriously.

Now, who can point out the reference to Elvis Presley in this post? C’mon, put on your thinking caps …. I know you can do it! (see, that's the only exclamation point in this whole post, and you didn't mind at all, did you?)

Don't forget to leave a comment on this post for a chance to win a $25 gift certificate to www.amazon.com

1 comment:

Lori said...

Ha! After reading this twice, I see the King reference: "A little less exclamation (action) -- a few more action words, please.

Anyway, I completely agree with you on using less exclamation points. When I use them in my wording I am always able to go back and remove most of them.