by Jake Ten Pas
Can you hear me now?
How about now???????????
Do all those question marks make my query more apparent, or were you able to use your brain and understanding of context and punctuation to detect that I was asking you a question without all those unnecessary appendages?
I ask because while having a conversation with a friend recently, he informed me that people can’t hear you if you only use one exclamation mark to punctuate your sentences online. Basically, his point went like this:
“If you just use one exclamation mark, nobody even notices. It’s like you’re just kind of excited. But if you use three exclamation marks, then it’s like you’re really excited. If you use even more, like eleven exclamation marks, then you’re really, really excited.”
My side of the conversation is irrelevant, because very few people online appear to subscribe to any reasoning other than what my friend put forward. For kicks, let’s assume, briefly, that this isn’t the case, and I’ll thank you later for indulging me.
Those of us who have been expressing ourselves through the written word for longer than we’ve been on Facebook – or online – see things differently. Exclamation marks, or points, are like the grenade launchers attached to the bottoms of our M16s. We only use them when we really have to blow something up. When used all the time, the result is an Internet that looks like a lunar landscape. At first, it’s as full of craters as a strip-mining site, and eventually it’s just a void where once there was the potential for well-appointed discourse.
Notice how few exclamation points I’ve used in this blog entry so far. When I say, “Wake up and smell the brimstone! This collective punctuation abuse is dragging our language straight to hell!” Well, I think you probably get that I’m screaming it at you, or possibly from a window, a la “Network.”
If you’re a business, or just an independent contractor operating a Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or any other similar account in a professional capacity, it’s important to remember that, just because you hold the exclamation point button down, it doesn’t make your fans/followers automatically care. It just makes them deaf, so if and when you post something that actually matters, they won’t hear you. The same applies to all-caps, just in case you were about to ask.
Because I know some of you still will disagree, I’d like to show you a chart that I hope illustrates my point.
I hope that helped to clear it up for you. If you still have questions, make sure to tag the subject line of your email with 66 question marks (and mark it important) or I might not see it in my inbox.
Oh, and thanks!