Hey! Exclamation points are used in marketing copy writing a lot! Some might say too much! I agree!
Cringeworthy, isn’t it? If readers can tell that too many exclamation points creates poor writing, why don’t we recognize it as writers? Probably because exclamation points can be effective.
Exclamation Points and Their Contributions to Writing
Exclamation points are often used to show the writer’s excitement, alarm, anger, or surprise. They can also indicate to the reader when something is serious, time-sensitive, out of the ordinary, noteworthy, or even to connote a loud voice. They give text emotion, establish a tone, and provide the feeling behind a word or phrase that goes beyond what that word or phrase is actually saying. Using “too many” exclamation points can be a stylistic or comedic choice, but generally, it’s best to apply them mindfully.
Why You Should Stay Away from Over-Exclamation
There are plenty of reasons to use exclamation points, but equally as many for not overdoing it. My top three are:
1. It’s grating
Think of the people who have an upward tone inflection when they talk, or who use “like” in every other sentence. Overuse of anything in writing—whether it’s literary devices, words, or syntax—is obnoxious and makes people want to stop reading.
2. It reads as fake
You can love your product and be excited about it, but when you resort to using exclamation points too much, it comes off like a used car salesperson. In an AI world, genuine connections are craved; stay away from appearing too eager to sell.
3. It’s unnecessary
The written word is a wonderful thing. Just like there are many ways to say “great” (“fantastic,” “amazing,” “wonderful,” “superb,” and “pleasing,” just to name a few), there are many ways to show how something is great, too. Really, if you’re reverting to a plethora of exclamation points, you’re just being lazy and robbing us all of the varied, delightful prose you could be giving us.
Draw Emphasis Using Other Formatting Techniques
Avoid exclamation overuse by varying the ways you draw attention to important information—underlining, italicizing, bolding, highlighting, bulleting, centering, coloring, and using all-caps, for instance.
Note that some of these techniques lend themselves better to words or short phrases, while others work better on longer phrases and full sentences. Highlighting, for instance, works well on longer phrases or sentences because the font hasn’t changed, so it is still very readable. ALL-CAPS, HOWEVER, TURNS INTO A SCREAMING NIGHTMARE WHEN YOU DO IT FOR MORE THAN A FEW SELECT WORDS. No matter which tool you use for emphasis, less is almost always more.
For example: “You really need to see this.” vs. “You really need to see this.”
You can see how italicizing just the word “really” puts an emphasis on how startling/urgent/huge the thing you need to see is—whereas the fully italicized sentence, while not exactly irritating on its own, isn’t particularly strong, either.
How to Make Sure You’re Hitting the Right Balance
How much is too much? That’s subjective, and as the author, you’re too biased to have the final say. Have a third party take a red pen to what you’ve written. Exclamation points aren’t going out of style—you’ll be able to use them again.
If you can’t find an editor, try reading it aloud and pay attention to your tone, inflection, and whether or not you sound like an infomercial. If you’re the kind of person who likes hard and fast rules, I’d say try not to have more than two exclamation points per paragraph (and that’s being generous), or more than five per page.
Exclamation points are useful, and certainly have their place in writing, just be sure that they aren’t a crutch. You don’t need them! You’ve got this!
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