STOP using that Exclamation Mark!!!!!!!

The exclamation mark is clearly not an endangered species…

Pink House in Harbour exclamation mark!

Not judging by the number of times it is included in people’s marketing copy.

“Hey, look at the picture. There’s a PINK house in the water!!!. A pink one!! In the harbour!!!”

There’s a place for the exclamation mark, of course.

As there is for all the little members of the punctuation family.

But people just appear lazy, crazy or Driving Miss Daisy these days.

Take my inbox.

(No, please do take it… do I really need 672 unread messages cluttering it up?)

Messages littered with an exclamation mark (or exclamation point) at the end of pretty much EVERY sentence.

So annoying! (And that’s an example of CORRECT usage, by the way… even if it can also play well with just a full stop).

My advice to these people?

STOP This Curse of Copy!!…

… the use, misuse and overuse of the exclamation mark.

It can make marketing messages look amateur, foolish or just plain lazy.

You may think I’m being ‘Mr Gary the Grammarly Man’ here but excessive or ill-judged punctuation could be costing you enquiries and sales.

If you litter your copy with exclamation marks it may feel like you are adding emphasis and excitement to the read. So the reader will be more excited, right?… Wrong!

What you are doing, in fact, is this.

You are watering down your message. You are sending a subconscious signal to your prospect, client or customer that your message is not strong enough to stand on its own two feet. It seeds doubt in their mind. And a doubtful mind only decides one way.

I’ve seen it in TWO emails in my inbox just recently. One for a coach, one for a travel company. Both loaded their sentences with exclamative endings. Lazy, dull. I gave up reading.

How do you do it right?

  1. Use exclamation marks sparingly (if it all). If it does not add something, leave it out.
  2. Use it correctly for command words (eg Stop! Halt! Don’t do it!)
  3. Use it for emotional responses or dramatic effect (eg Wow! Fantastic! Amazing! Brilliant! Yippee!!!! or No! No!! No!!! No!!!!… No!) or “What do you mean, you’ve lost your passport?!?1?!”
  4. Use it out of context or over-sized to grab visual attention. (eg grab attent!on or put a “!” in a one-word 72pt headline)
  5. Use it for swear words (if you use them authentically in your copy). Swear in public, swear in emails? Too #$@&%* right! (may be unlikely in this community but there are people out there who do. By the way, the use of symbols to convey a profanity is called a grawlix).
  6. Swap lame, unworthy exclamation marks for stronger copy. Take the time to find the right words, the right phrase, the right sentence structure to give your message extra depth, resonance and 3D stickability.
  7. Remind yourself of a film or tv script. The writer does not indicate where to breathe, where to pause (unless a long one) or where to place emphasis. He allows the actor – the reader – to bring the words to life. Treat your audience like a wonderfully talented actor. Let them put in the exclamation points for themselves.

Are we clear on exclamation marks?


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