Too! Many! Exclamation! Points! :-)

A couple of weeks ago, I was reading the Museum 2.0 blog, and I came across this post: No! More! Exclamation! Points!

Yikes. I sunk into my chair.

I use exclamation points way too much. Smilies, too. Really. A lot. Like maybe I should be in a 12-step program.

The problem with written communications, like email, but especially shorter forms like texts or Twitter, is that you lack the non-verbal half of the message. If you and I were having a conversation, and you said something like “Oh, I love brussels sprouts,” I’d immediately know whether you were being sarcastic or sincere by the tone of your voice.

I love brussels sprouts.

There, on the page, you have to take it at face value. You would be forced to believe that I have a thing for those green, mini-cabbages.

Try this one:

I loooooove brussels sprouts. 😉

Cheeky, right? You get the idea that while I say I love them, I don’t really. So much.

So, I rely heavily on the exclamation point and emoticons. Nina’s post hit home:

My sensitivity to this issue is undoubtedly due to the fact that I myself am highly prone to enthusiastic displays of all kinds. I get the problem because I am the problem. I frequently have to revise my emails to reduce the number of exclamation points from three or four to one. The exclamation point is a kind of shorthand for all the goodwill and energy any of us feel for the things about which we are most passionate. I know how it feels to want to tell someone, “Amazing workshops and demos today at Experience Clay!” or “Great idea!” We feel personally invested and excited, and so we exclaim.
Excitement is good, but it’s hard to direct it to a broad audience of visitors and passersby. Passion is best communicated personally, so that the receiver can soak in the directed energy of the giver. Exclamations fall flat when they are shared in the impersonal, one-to-many format of most museum communication. If a staff member talks a visitor through the museum map and then scrawls, “you will love this exhibit!” over a particular area, that statement feels genuine. It’s infused with the specific energy of the relationship between those two people, no matter how brief. But that same statement printed on the map for all to see feels like a fraud. It turns a personal sentiment into a banal, desperate sales pitch.

So what do we do? Ban the exclamation point? Make smilies a thing of the past?

I’m not sure. I certainly don’t have the answer. But I am going to try to consciously cut back on my exclamation point usage!

Whoops! See, I can’t help myself…

How about you? Is there something you use all the time in your communication that you feel is a bit of a crutch?

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Rebecca Coleman

Social Media Marketing Strategist, Blogger, Author, Teacher, Trainer. Passionate foodie, mom to Michael, fueled by Americanos. I love my bike. Soon-to-be cookbook author. Localvore with a wanderlust.

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