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The Exclamation Mark: Do You Use Too Many?

Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.

An online devotional for writers

A Word From The Word

Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back. (Proverbs 29:11, NLT)

A Word For Writers

When you check blogs, email, social media sites, and texts today, take note when you see an exclamation mark.

The Exclamation Mark: an online devotional based on Prov 29:11 with Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter #ChristianWritingResources

Prediction: you’ll count more than a handful.

It’s part of current  “Punctuation Inflation” trend in which exclamation marks are used several times in one blog post or even one paragraph. They’re also used also in multiples, particularly in text messages (like this!!!)

Is exclamation mark overuse so wrong?

"At journalism school, I was told that you get one exclamation point to use in your entire career, so you should use it wisely,” says Julie Beck, senior editor at The Atlantic. “You could, perhaps, spend your one exclamation point on a headline like 'WAR OVER!' but nothing less would merit one.”

That’s because an exclamation mark emphasizes strong emotions like excitement, surprise, sarcasm, or enthusiasm. 

Overuse is a tip off that you don’t know which emotion to emphasize or how to emphasize it and suddenly you’re emphasizing all of them – much like a man who has no self-control over his emotions.

A wise man finds disciplined ways to manage his emotions. Likewise, a wise writer finds disciplined ways to use words when communicating emotions.

And he keeps his exclamation marks under control.

A Wise Word

Use exclamation marks judiciously.

A Word To Pray

Heavenly Father,

It’s tempting to use an exclamation mark as a crutch. Help me to identify the emotions to communicate in my writing. Give me the discipline to use words and imagery to touch the reader – and to use punctuation for specific emphasis.

In Jesus’s name, Amen.

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