What’s Too Much Is Too Much.
On the Inflationary Use of the Exclamation Mark.
Imagine you’re at a store, wanting to buy something, and the seller keeps yelling at you. Would you consider him trustworthy and feel inclined to buy from him? Probably not.
But that is exactly what constantly happens when you’re online. Sentences ending in exclamation marks pile up there quite a bit. And unfortunately, not just on Facebook, Twitter, etc. but also in advertising texts. It should be noted that the rules are violated considerably more often when it comes to the exclamation mark compared to any other punctuation mark. That is to say: In most cases in which exclamation marks are used, they are unnecessary from a grammatical viewpoint.
Ursula Bredel, professor of the German language at the University of Hildesheim, says: “In correct usage, the punctuation mark is placed whenever the sender wants to express: Attention, here comes something unexpected.” Hence, if you are asking someone to fill something in, write: “Please fill this in.” As this is obvious, an exclamation mark is uncalled for. If you want to draw attention to the fact that a field must remain empty, it is sensible. “Please do not write here!” Ms Bredel sums it up: “The usual case does not need an exclamation mark, only the exceptional.” Looking at it properly, the sentence “You have to try this, you’ll love how it tastes” means, that that would be an exception. Usually it does not taste good.
Let’s not be all that fussy. But even if you ignore the “exact” meaning of it, besides the grammatical factor there is another aspect that can considerably affect the advertising appeal. It is also a question of style. By using an exclamation mark, the entire statement, or rather its tone, is altered. It immediately comes across as shrill, actionist, and loud. Used in a headline, a single exclamation mark can divert an entire text into a certain direction from the start. Used in a claim, it can even affect the image of an entire company. This aspect needs to be thoroughly considered when addressing customers. In all channels, offline and online. Also on Facebook, Twitter, and all the other social media platforms. If the customer is addressed in a poor style, it affects the relationship of trust between the company and the customer.
So, it is worth considering exactly what you want to express and what mood you want to convey before putting an exclamation mark at the end of a sentence. The sentiment “Less is more” is valid, here, too.
You disagree? Then I look forward to your comments and an interesting discussion.
You have questions? I hope I have answers.
michael.nipp (at) schindlerparent.de