Excessive Exclamationitis!

19 Sep

“Your employee benefit needs are taken care of with us! With our state-of-the-art wellness programs, your business will see instantly lower medical costs! Call a Holmes Murphy broker today!”

Above is an excerpt from a marketing brochure that arrived on my desk this summer at Holmes Murphy & Associates, an insurance brokerage firm.  It is not a terrible appeal for business.  The paragraph acknowledges the needs of the customer, offers a service, and pleads for further communication.  However, the paragraph also has the tone of the late infomercial star, Billy Mays.

Go back and read the first three sentences again, but this time use an announcer’s voice to narrate.  If you are not hearing extreme enthusiasm at a loud volume with each sentence, you may have excessive exclamationitis.

Persons of all types suffer from this condition, which causes its victims to believe exclamation points are needed for emphatic syntax. Excessive exclamationitis plagues our technology-geared generation, making the exclamation point common punctuation, equivalent to the period.  Text messages and Facebook walls are filled with the skinny symbol, and this unfortunate condition now appears in emails as well.

I mastered the art of the exclamation point and cured my excessive exclamationitis this summer as a marketing/communications intern.  All communication was professional and monitored, and I needed to sound serious in order to be taken seriously.  You can cure your excessive exclamationitis too by following these guidelines:

1)     If you are not jumping or yelling when saying a sentence aloud, do NOT use an exclamation point.

2)     Use two or fewer exclamation points per communication piece (i.e., one email or one paper).

Business writing requires a professional tone and style for all communication.  Even friendly emails to your supervisor probably do not need the three exclamations after a gracious “Thank you!!!”  (Which I discovered after his simpler reply of, “You’re welcome.”)  Including an exclamation point can change the way a whole sentence or paragraph is received.  As Lynn Gaertner-Johnson from BusinessWritingBlog.com says, “the eagerness is in the language,” not the punctuation.

So remember: say it; don’t exclaim it!

For more on exclamation points from Lynn Gaertner-Johnson, visit http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2009/05/so-nice-to-see-you-exclamation-point-.html

by Murphy Stanley

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