I’ve been known to refer to social media as antisocial media, so you might wonder what I think is the worst thing about it. Online bullying? The relentless self-promotion? (Buy my book! Buy my service!) People tagging you or adding you to lists without asking permission?

Nah. It’s the exclamation points. For my British friends and followers, exclamation marks.

Okay, I’m not really serious, but you have to admit: as a writer, editor, or proofreader, you could spend your whole life hearing, “Avoid exclamation points,” and then to see them everywhere could drive you crazy.

Take Facebook. I looked at my notifications today and the first one said, “Art Freen and Janie Doe have birthdays today. Wish them well!” Do I really need Facebook yelling at me to wish my friends a happy birthday? (And no, those are not my real friends’ names. Heck, I think I stole “Art Freen” from a Don Martin cartoon circa 1971.)

Of course, you know what happens next. I click in the appropriate box and yell, “Happy birthday, Art!” What other choice do I have?

Even on Twitter?

Twitter is my favorite social platform, because I’ve been able to build up a large following and engage with many other writers and readers. But in some ways, it’s even worse there. Just a quick scroll through my feed this morning yields these exclamation gems: “Coming soon!” “Thanks for the follow!” And, my personal favorite for today, “[Book name redacted] quite emotionally charged!”

It’s enough to make a guy want to post that little smiley face who’s laughing so hard he’s crying.

Ultimately, it becomes a zero sum game, an if-you-can’t-beat-them-join-them deal, where you have to use the dreaded exclamation point just to appear friendly.

It’s fine on social media, I guess, but it starts to become worrisome when it migrates to business correspondence. Here’s where I have to use my best judgment. When the cool millennial from my favorite client’s office sends me email – and it starts with “Hey Mike!” and ends with “Let me know what you think!” – I can probably get away with “Thanks!” or “I’ll put it on the schedule!”

But for someone I don’t know, who might not be casual in their correspondence, no way. NO exclamation points, unless they fire first. And even then, only in moderation.

What do you think? Comment below! (Oops. Sorry about that. Really!)

 

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