I did it.
I went a week without using exclamation marks. Not a single happy stick and dot in any emails, text messages, or reminder notes to myself or anyone else.
The week required concentration. I like using exclamation marks. I like when other people use exclamation marks. They’re like virtual fist bumps. In nixing the mark, I had to choose my words more carefully to accomplish the same feeling of comaraderie that the mark communicates so effortlessly.
A little while ago I was reminded of this quote from C.S. Lewis:
Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.
His sage advice makes sense to me too with respect to punctuation. Don’t use an exclamation mark if you don’t need to, otherwise you’ll have no punctuation option left when you want to talk about something really exclamatory. Or, you’ll risk falling into the trap of having to use multiple exclamation marks, which more than anything suggests an over consumption of spirits or caffeine.
This is informal communication I’m referring to, but even casual correspondence should strive to represent the best of ourselves. Think, virtual fist bump plus virtual eye contact.
Jane wins the Newbery.
Dan emails: Holy frickin’ awesome!! You’re a rockstar!!!! (fist bump)
Sam emails: This is really wonderful news. You are truly deserving of this incredible honor. I am so, so proud of you. (fist bump + deep meaningful eye contact)
Using exclamation marks doesn’t necessarily preclude poor word choice, but it tends to. And in fact, Sam could probably have used an exclamation in his message because if ever there was something worth exclaiming about, it’d be a friend winning the Newbery Medal.
The week has been just a little bit liberating. Already I feel more grounded, less high-pitched.
Less like I’m communicating through a megaphone.