I’m taking a writing workshop with Professor Elizabeth Tallent–a fascinating writer and a great teacher. As is often the case with writing workshops, we get to talk about a lot of interesting topics and today we got around to our favorite/least favorite punctuations. Yep, you read it right: punctuations. How can you not get excited? And yep, some people do have very strong feelings for those tiny little things that most of us ignore while texting anyway.
It’s nothing new that writers hate exclamation marks. F. Scott Fitzgerald said: “An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.” The grammar police proposed that we should just ban exclamation marks altogether. Today in class, Professor Tallent started with: “[Insert here a name that I forgot] once told me we only have three exclamation points during our whole career as a writer.” Everyone in the class nodded knowingly.
But is it really the end of exclamation marks? We proceeded to talk trash about exclamation marks until someone mentioned emails. Suddenly the tide turned.
“You can’t say hi in emails without an exclamation mark.”
“It’d be too hostile.”
“If I get an email that started with “Hi James,” I will automatically think that I have done something terribly wrong. It’s like ending an SMS with a period.”
I should say, everyone in the class except me. I was just sitting there like I didn’t get the memo. Since when it has become the norm that we use exclamation marks for greetings in emails? Is it why I never get a response from publishers when I send them my writing?
So what’s the deal? Should I start using exclamation marks or nah?