Exclamation marks are often unnecessary and can make your writing sound shouty.

In Elements of Style, Strunk and White’s advice is clear.

Do not attempt to emphasize simple statements by using a mark of exclamation.”

They’re right! right. You should create emphasis with your choice of words rather than the way you punctuate them, because it’s easy for an exclamation mark to make a sentence sound shouty or rather too desperate to please. Not generally something you want in business writing.

So should you cut out exclamation marks from your punctuation repertoire? Not necessarily. They’re more acceptable in email, social media or text messages – channels that are being used more and more at work as well as socially.

In their book Send: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do It Better, David Shipley and Will Schwalbe argue that exclamation marks are a useful tool to help lift the tone of these inherently flat digital communications channels. And the New York Times carried this piece on exclamation marks that included thoughts from Walter Kirn, author of Up in the Air, on using exclamation marks in text messages:

The text message and the exclamation point are made for each other, and I’m glad they finally found each other. They’re both one-note forms of communication, without music, without connotation and atmosphere, but they do have their uses … To me, there’s no more shame in filling text messages with exclamation points three at a time, if necessary, than there is in using strings of expletives while arguing politics at an Irish pub.”

— Walter Kirn, author of Up in the Air

He’s got a point. So exclaim away in text messages, just go easy on the exclamation marks in your other business writing (and you should probably cut down on the expletives while you’re at it).

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