Mime-Version: 1.0 (NeXT Mail 3.3 v118.2)
From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Tue, 19 Nov 96 13:26:23 -0800
Forwarded-by: Keith Bostic <email@example.com>
Forwarded-by: "Keith's Mostly Clean Humor List" <KSullivan@worldnet.att.net>
LOOK, REGINALD!!!!!! AN EXCLAMATION POINT!!
-- By Bill Hall, Lewiston, Idaho, Tribune, July 1, 1990
I received another one of those letters the other day in which the writer
was so excited about something that she overdosed on exclamation points like
I don't do that. I don't know any hired writers who do. There's a reason
for that. And do you know what it is????
Good news!!!! I'm going to tell you!!!!!
I don't use all those exclamation points and all those question marks
because I don't know how. I don't know quite what people are trying to
accomplish when they do that so I don't know how it's done. Most of all,
I don't know how many exclamation points and how many question marks to use
in each instance.
I do understand the use of more than one question mark. A person who says,
"Where is Idaho????" is dumber than a person who says, "Where is Idaho?"
There must be some formula for exclamation points as well. Maybe it has to
do with how much volume you are supposed to use when you read the sentence
aloud. Maybe it's a one-to-10 scale because the friend who sent me the
latest exclamation-pointed letter talks louder when she is happy about
something than when she is glum. Maybe it is her way of telling me how loud
she feels about her latest news. Maybe the number of exclamation points
escalates with her emotions like this:
"I met a nice guy!!"
Which soon becomes: "I think Lester wants to marry me!!!!!"
And then eventually: "I'm getting married in the morning!!!!!!!!!!"
I've never read a commercial novel that uses more than one exclamation point
per sentence, no matter how excited the character in the novel becomes.
But maybe they should consider it. After all, there is a difference
between, "Look at that lovely sunset, Reginald!" and "Oh!... Oh!!!...
Oh!!!!! The earth is moving, Reginald!!!!!!!!"
People who use multiple exclamation points in letters tend to do the same
in conversation. And we who use only one exclamation point per thought, no
matter how vast the difference in emotion from one thought to another, tend
to be more reserved in our manner, using the same even tone whether we are
saying, "What a nice day!" or, "By the way, your hair is on fire!"
Multiple-exclamation-point people tend to be bubbly in person. They tend
to be upbeat and a trifle hyper. They are the sort of people who are always
saying things like "Have a nice day!!!"
If it sounds like I scoff at the overuse of exclamation points, that's not
true. I don't scoff. I scoff!!!!
Working the poor old exclamation point to death is a substitute for taking
the trouble to say what you mean. You say, "I love pizza!!!" as a
substitute for thinking a little and saying, "Pizza is not only a relatively
well-balanced meal all by itself, but one of the most successful blends of
flavors ever conceived and a food that offers the added virtue of being
somthing that you can share with a friend."
Period. No exclamation point necessary, let alone more than one. If you
are the sort of person who comes unglued over pizza, tell me why, don't just
turn a verbal cartwheel and expect me to understand what you mean or to
think that you're entirely sane.
Multiple exclamation points are as lazy as saying "Have a nice day!" instead
of saying, "Thanks, for coming in, Mr. Sturgis, it's always nice to see you
and we're glad to have your business."
Maybe the exclamation-point binge comes from a society with two many rating
systems. We have five-star movies so we have five-exclamation-point emotions.
If you say, "What a great movie!" after one flick and "What a great
movie!!!" after another, that is the only way we have to know that you liked
the second one better.
It's similar to the habit of using one word (It used to be "Awesome!" and
I believe it is now "Radical!" or "Rad!") to describe the entire range of
human emotion. When you're doing that, the only way I have to tell how rad
you think something is, is the number of exclamation points you place after
Of course, the obvious way to end this column is with a strong emotional
declaration, followed by a series of exclamation points, thereby satirizing
the whole situation. But I'm just too dignified to stoop to that level.
© 1996 Peter Langston