I’m Damn Boring!!! Read Me Anyway!!!

Did you feel your heart beat a little faster when you read the title?
The Internet has made communicating so easy there is a tendency to disregard grammar. That goes for emails, blogs, and all social media forums. No one is perfect, least of all me, but I see an irritating pattern—the overuse of exclamation marks.


In emails, there isn’t an easy way to convey emotions, inflection of voice or sarcasm. Messages can be easily misinterpreted since you have little control over how it’s read. The use of smiley faces, acronyms such as ROFL, LOL, LMAO, and bolding words for emphasis all help to express a thought more clearly. When someone uses all uppercase letters, I imagine them screaming their entire message at me.

When a sentence is followed by an exclamation mark, I read it as if the person is cheerfully declaring their message. Two exclamation marks indicate the person is so animated they are falling out of their chair. Three exclamations mean they’re practically having an orgasm. Really? Is that true? Somehow I doubt it.


The saying, “Less is more” applies in the case of exclamation marks. One will suffice; forming a small army of them to assault your reader is unnecessary. It’d be like the boy who cried exclamation mark. If you use it all the time, people will soon realize you have nothing to exclaim.
Perhaps the advent of electronic communication makes it necessary to insert exclamations – to alleviate the boredom. Emails, direct messages, comments can seem lifeless without them.

All right, I’ll give you that, but can we keep it to a dull roar and just use one exclamation mark per sentence? Thanks!

eden

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32 responses to “I’m Damn Boring!!! Read Me Anyway!!!

  1. raymondbolton

    I’m less disturbed by excessive exclamation points than I am by the much abused apostrophe. Even after taking time to explain the difference between plural and possessive forms or its use in forming contractions, I am often faced with blank incomprehension.

    And then there is the almost forgotten question mark or the rationed-out period. Oh, the run-on sentence!

    I could go on, but I’m afraid my reply would be longer than your post. I’m beginning to feel in-consonant, as if I’m about to have a serious vowel movement, so I’ll stop.

  2. Raymond, you’re insane! See? I refrained from using more than one exclamation mark.

    You’re right, the apostrophe is terribly misused. It’s unfortunate that its importance in the English language is misunderstood. 😉

    eden

  3. LOL I’m so guilty of this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Seriously. I am. Forgive me. I’ll do better, promise 😉

  4. I think sometimes people are better at saying something face to face rather than via email. Email does not have the emotion or not always that one wants to show.

    • So true, I think it’s also for lack of time in expressing ourselves via the written medium. We tend to shorten everything, and use grammar or acronyms to convey what we want to say .
      This wouldn’t happen when speaking with someone in person.
      Thanks for your comment, Savannah.
      eden

  5. I have been disregarding grammar since the internet used for the military to communicate with aliens and bigfoot. Still, my problem doesn’t lie in the exclamation mark, but rather with my “orgasmic” love affair with the “…”. I have to stop myself from using Ellipsis after every short sentence as if they have some sort of practical function, not sure why except that my thoughts are always trailing off. Still, the abusive relationship that’s often seen with exclamation marks does annoy me every now and then, and I am with you, less is definitely more.After all, to paraphrase Ayn Rand, “If everything is that exciting, then nothing is that exciting.”

    • Ahh, the elusive ellipsis, which many people do use in their writing. I see it less in social media like Twitter (takes up space). As a reader, I interpret it as the writer taking a pause, or as you say – thoughts trailing off.

      I find the ellipsis slows me down as the reader if it’s overused, as if the writer is ‘directing’ me how to read. For me, that takes the pleasure out of reading.

      Completely agree with Ayn Rand, and I’ve not heard that quote before. Who can be THAT excited ALL the time?

      Thanks for the comment, hon,
      eden

  6. Wonderful post, eden, and I hardly grew bored. Had time to clip zippy’s nails while reading the last part, and then Kipling barged in wanting equal treatment, and then the cinnamon rolls called out to me! Really!! Eat me now, they roared!!!

  7. Our social media culture has devolved from in-depth discussions, to 30 second audio sound bites, to barely, effectively communicating via acronyms and emoticons in print and texting. A line from one of my favorite films, “Cool Hand Luke” now appropriately makes that case. “I believe what we have here is a failure to communicate.”
    Great post, eden.

    • Thanks for that Jeff. I believe there is a certain element of “too many people, too little time” and therefore, each person gets merely a snippet in written form. Hopefully, communication would be much better in person.
      😉
      eden

  8. I find it difficult to visit on line via instant message or email and twitter blows my mind. Will we ever get back to talking to one another? I seem to overuse or misuse just about everything grammatical–did I spell that right?

    Good post

    Wally

  9. Exclamation marks and other annoying devices are often justified because “words alone can be misunderstood.” So…why didn’t our letter-writing ancestors use them?

    • Unless I misunderstand you, Frank, I believe our letter-writing ancestors did use them—smiley faces aside. These are not current inventions, but rather date back to much earlier times and were devised to add clarity to the written word—the sort the voice conveys.

      • True. Punctuation itself, in fact, is an early example. Actually, so are spaces between words: centuries ago we used to write in scriptum continua — all the words joined together.

        Even Internet emoticons and abbreviations aren’t new. “LOL” once meant “lots of luck” (or alternatively, “lots of love”), and I imagine that even today everyone knows what SWAK meant. Heck, even the word “e-mail” has been around since the late 19th century: in 1876 there was a regular column in the Toronto Telegram called “From e-mail” which reported on news received by telegraph. Telegraph operators, of course, were early adopters of abbreviations and text icons, but they were dealing with an extremely compressed form of writing (much like Twitter).

        My point (“and I do have one”)* is that despite such conventions being around in one form or another for years, the general populace never felt the need to incorporate them to any great degree in their writing. Aside from basic punctuation, our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents relied on words to convey their meaning. It’s only very recently that we’ve been claiming words are inadequate and started to throw in ludicrous numbers of exclamation marks and peculiar icons to get across points we used to be able to make by means of our vocabulary.

        None of this, by the way, is meant as a criticism of you or your post. The fact is, when you said, “In emails, there isn’t an easy way to convey emotions, inflection of voice or sarcasm. Messages can be easily misinterpreted since you have little control over how it’s read,” it reminded me how often I’ve heard this, and triggered an analytical look at it.

        * Credit to Ellen Degenerous

      • Excellent dialogue you spurned here, eden. I’ve really enjoyed reading all your opinions and comments.
        Jeff

    • Ah! My error. You were referring to those smiley faces, etc. In that case, let us go back to the early days of the ‘net.

      Because bandwidth, or data transmission rate, in those days was limited, messages had to be terse—less florid and descriptive than traditional prose. As a result, the tenor of the message was often misinterpreted. Consequently, a notation system was invented that allowed brevity, while inserting clarity. Although bandwidth is no longer an issue, we have grown accustomed to brief messages and the notation system remains.

      • Ah, but now you’re changing the stipulations. Previously it was, ” “In emails, there isn’t an easy way to convey emotions, inflection of voice or sarcasm.” Now it’s about bandwidth, and as I pointed out, even in the 19th century, a lack of bandwidth (telegraphy) resulted in some text that looks surprisingly like modern Tweets (“Hw r u ts mng?”). When bandwidth, whatever its form, is at a premium, such short-cuts have always been common.

        But there has never really been a time when the Web, or even the Internet for that matter, was so devoid of bandwidth that text posed a problem. For graphics, yes, but not for text, and certainly not for such things as e-mails. Even the old BBSs allowed for large blocks of text. If there ever was a time that messages had to be kept to a bare minimum number of words, it occurred during the very early stages of the Internet, when only a few specialised people were using it, and therefore cannot be considered to have had an effect on the habits of the population at large.

        And as an aside, lack of bandwidth certainly can’t be used an explanation for such things as the proliferation of exclamation points, a practice that takes more bandwidth (although admittedly negligible) than traditional forms of writing.

  10. Shawn Weisser

    Reblogged this on Weisser Books and commented:
    This is a great post!

  11. It’s lovely to read the dialogue that’s come out of this post. Appreciate the conversation, and it’s so nice to meet you, Frank. I’ll address the part of my post you mentioned – specifically:

    “In emails, there isn’t an easy way to convey emotions, inflection of voice or sarcasm. Messages can be easily misinterpreted since you have little control over how it’s read, ”

    and I’ll tie it back to your statement:

    “… our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents relied on words to convey their meaning. It’s only very recently that we’ve been claiming words are inadequate and started to throw in ludicrous numbers of exclamation marks and peculiar icons to get across points we used to be able to make by means of our vocabulary.”

    I consider email to be very different than the physical letter writing of our parents, grandparents, and certainly of our great-grandparents. I’m old enough to remember the fine art of writing letters longhand. It was important to choose my words carefully because I would not receive an immediate response to my letter for sometime. It was critical to write not to be misunderstood as much as it was to be understood.

    In email, there is opportunity for banter, a conversation of sorts. Remove the fact that some people are just better writers, what is clearly missing from electronic communication are the cues I speak of.

    Case in point, a friend recently sent me an email asking if I’d like to go out for Italian or Chinese food.

    I responded, “Chinese.”

    She said, “I just had Chinese yesterday, how about Italian instead?”

    My answer was “Fine.”

    Now, what I should have said was, “That’s fine. I really don’t mind where we go as long as we get together.” That was exactly what I meant.

    She took my response to be confrontational, as if I were sulking because I didn’t get my way. We went back and forth for a while with me telling her she couldn’t read tone into what I said. Finally, I resorted to picking up the phone to call her. It was quite comical in the end how one simple word could be misunderstood.

    This is an isolated incident, but the world of email does not always afford us time to write out our thoughts in full with proper punctuation. It’s not an excuse, more the reality of having to respond to a few hundred emails a day. I try to be professional with my writing, whether it’s email, comments on blogs, or my own blog posts. Does this mean I always use the right words, structure my sentences, and carefully punctuate? No, and more often than not, the reason is for lack of time.

    My post was a little tongue in cheek. I agree words are not inadequate to express what we want to say, but the medium has changed. Email, chat, and particularly texting have created a form of communicating that allows us to truncate words, use emoticons, and insert acronyms instead of writing out our thoughts fully. Perhaps it’s lack of time, or maybe it’s just plain laziness that has created this new language. I suspect it’s a bit of both.

    Thanks again to everyone for your comments,

    eden

    • Christopher Simpson

      Now that has the ring of truth to it. While e-mails may not be restricted in size, their immediacy does cause us to treat them differently from letters. Certainly few people would have sent letters of only one or two words.

      Well — aside from the Laconians who, when sent a message from Philip II of Macedon saying, “If I enter your city, I will raze it to the ground,” sent back a letter with the single word, “If.” *

      It was, however, an exceptional circumstance.

      As for your friend, I would have been tempted to write back saying, “Then why did you bloody well ask me?”

      It at least would have the advantage of making my tone perfectly clear.

      ——-

      * There are different versions of this message, and some debate about whether it was sent by Phillip or Alexander, but the basic idea remains the same.

      • Thanks for your comment, Christopher and for the insight about the Laconians.

        As for my friend … you see, girlfriends can be that way sometimes. She didn’t want to seem boorish by telling me what she wanted, so she tried to make it appear as if she was offering me a choice. Unfortunately, I didn’t make the ‘right’ choice. I think that had something to do with her surly response, perhaps a bit of projection on her part. We had a laugh over it when all was said and done, but I never respond to her in email with “Fine” anymore.

        eden

  12. And from now on I’ll be looking at any post with three exclamation marks as if they’re having an orgasm, or in other terms, a happy moment.

  13. The English language is changing thanks to emails and the social media. Most of us write emails and short pieces with little reguard to the rules. It’s not a bad thing unless it flows over to serious writing. I’m the worst with commas, ellipsis and EM dashes. They do set a pace but when over used they get in the way of reading. Thank you for the reminder, Eden. Great post!

    • Dannie, thanks for your comment. Agree, the relentless pace of email and social media forums has compromised all proper writing rules. Lack of time has a lot to do with it.

      I certainly don’t want to see these errors in books.

      eden

  14. Lovely, Eden:

    As you know, I am guilty of overusing exclamations and all of the other practices the readers above commented on.

    It’s interesting that this post from you comes at a time that I’ve been ruminating on the same topic, wondering when my standards became so lax. I trace this activity directly back to Twitter and texting. Before these, I was a much more restrained, conservative-type writer.

    This has me in a writing conundrum. I am an exuberant individual. It’s my nature to be enthusiastic and excited. I am, after all, a triple Gemini. So, am I going to alter my social media and writing personality back to something more restrained? I don’t know. Perhaps.

    I’ve pretty much decided that it’s impossible to do this on Twitter. I tried. About a year ago, I did an experiment. For a week, I didn’t use any exclamations, LOLs, etc. and guess what happened? People were upset, worried, angry even. I was getting DMs asking what did they do? Why wasn’t I putting a smiley face at the end of my tweets? Why did I leave off “XOXO”? See my problem?

    Your thoughts on this would be most appreciated.

  15. I agree totally with all of this, Eden, and couldn’t resist quoting the fifth of Elmore Leonard’s writing ‘rules’:
    “Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.”

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