Editorial: Embrace the exclamation point!

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

There’s a taboo amongst us, and it had nothing to do with religion, politics or sex. It’s punctuation. Yes, we’re talking about the exclamation point.

Everyone seems to have a different take on the exclamation point — from using it on an online dating platform to limiting its use in the workplace. Some people feel that overuse causes it to lose meaning, while others feel that it’s a feminine form of punctuation. But it isn’t use of the exclamation point that needs to be adjusted. Instead, it’s the negative perception of it. It’s time to see the exclamation point for what it is and embrace it.

According to Meredith Golden — a professional who manages other people’s online dating profiles — it’s easy to know when to use the exclamation point on Tinder. Which, she says, is never. Other professionals agree that exclamation points shouldn’t be used excessively in professional workspaces, as they may appear unprofessional.

“This isn’t Vegas on a girls trip,” product strategist Tami Reiss told The New York Times. “The triple exclamation point is great when your best friend just got engaged, but at work, it can come off as juvenile.”

Reiss even created a Gmail plugin app that has the capability to notify users when they’ve “overused” the exclamation point. In her opinion, overuse means any sentence followed by more than two exclamation points.

Studies have found that women use exclamation points much more frequently than men, making the exclamation point an implicitly feminine punctuation mark. This could explain why Reiss uses wholly feminine examples when she talks to The New York Times. And since the punctuation mark is more feminine, advising someone to curb their use of the exclamation point is, in many ways, equivalent to saying, “behave like men in order to gain respect at work.” But we should instead have an open mind about the punctuation mark’s positive qualities and possible contributions to the workplace.

The exclamation point represents enthusiasm and cheer in the digital world, where punctuation is a signifier of tone. We strive to cultivate enthusiasm and joy in our lives, for the sake of our own mental health, yet we write off the use of the exclamation point in dating and the workplace. In their email etiquette guide, writers David Shipley and Will Schwable discuss the role of the exclamation point.

“Exclamation points can instantly infuse electronic communication with human warmth,” they write.

And using it in the workspace might do exactly that, if only given the chance. Punctuation shouldn’t be regulated, and people shouldn’t be valued more or less based upon the level of enthusiasm they show in an email or in a dating profile. If you like the exclamation point, then use it, and use it with confidence.

The world needs more enthusiasm and happiness right now, and even if it’s as small as the action of using an extra exclamation point, it’s worth it.