I have become slightly obsessed with the obsessive use of the exclamation mark in today’s casual correspondence. In fact, last week, I had to ask someone in the studio, “When IS it OK to use this (highly over rated) punctuation mark?”

From The Elements of Style:

Do not attempt to emphasize simple statements by using a mark of exclamation.

It was a wonderful show!                                It was a wonderful show.

The exclamation mark is to be reserved for use after true exclamations or commands.

What a wonderful show!


Too many exclamation marks make me feel like I am being shouted at… constantly these days.  My grandmother always said that “you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar,” and I believe that is the case here. Calmly made declarations or understatements make a point as readily – and can mean so much more.

Author F. Scott Fitzgerald once advised to “Cut out all those exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own jokes,” which makes me think of those overly used sitcom laugh tracks.

I am pretty happy to NOT live my life as a sitcom. You?

xoNatalie (In my ongoing pursuit to eradicate the superfluous exclamation mark.)

P.S.: I love Maira Kalman’s drawings. Read the story behind Elements of Style and watch the film:


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Click to read 6 comments
  1. Oami

    You know, I’ve not given much thought to the excessive use of the exclamation point, but this makes me want to take greater care in how I apply them.

    My personal obsession is with the demise of the question mark, which seems to be considered optional these days.

  2. Elissa

    And wouldn’t you know it? I just sent you all a thank-you note for my very wonderful day with you guys last week…with lots of exclamation points, to display my passionate love for what you’re doing. 🙂

  3. Anjade

    Well done(!). My personal peeve is with the overzealous use of apostrophes. I see them used more and more with any word that ends with an “s”. People who don’t know how to use them just put them in everywhere. I have to drive past a tavern that has a huge sign that reads “Bloody Mary’s” and no that is not the name of the place.

    1. Kerry

      I am constantly thinking about how much I over-use the exclamation point. (really trying to restrain myself from using it right there.) But! I really don’t like the 🙂 emoticons, either. I’ve decided that I need to invent a punctuation mark that falls somewhere between a period and an exclamation point, without the cuteness of the 🙂 . Funny how I think about this way too much! (somehow, though, since my company is called Comma Workshop– I feel it is my duty to develop this new punctuation mark.)

      1. Stefanie Jones

        Ever since I saw this post, I have curtailed my use of exclamation points in my facebook posts. It seemed that was the only punctuation I used, like I was proclaiming and yelling every statement. It’s almost like using all caps. From now on , I will rein it in. I’m sure it’s kind of annoying to my punctuation nazi friends.

  4. Debbie Williams

    I am reading this in 2013. Yes, I use the exclamation point a lot in my correspondence. I am enthusiastic and I guess I feel it helps convey that on ‘paper’. BUT…..I will think about it more from now on. BTW…just ordered THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE from Amazon. They have an ALABAMA CHANIN READING LIST…amazing.
    See, I would have used an exclamation point there but refrained. (<: