Beware Over-Exuberant Punctuation: A PR Writing Primer

March 19, 2013
 

By: Rebecca
I need to report a workplace hazing. My colleagues are torturing me with excessive exclamation point use. It's become a running joke: Want to see Rebecca get out her red pen? Show her how very, very excited you are about what you're writing!!!
To set the record straight at Metis and in the world at large, let me say clearly that I don't hate the exclamation point. I used one when my brother told me he was getting married. (“I'm so happy for you!”) I used one in the note I put in my daughter's lunchbox the other day. (“Hope you're having a good day. I love you!”) I often use them in short emails or instant messages when emoticons and LOLs just won't do.
But I draw the line at putting an exclamation point into a persuasive piece of writing. Here's why: if you can't find a word that makes your audience feel excited about what you're sharing, you don't know your story well enough yet. The exclamation point is a flimsy Band-Aid in that situation – one that can't heal the underlying problem. Any discerning reader will see through your punctuation cover-up, giving her an easy excuse for ignoring you – or worse, ridiculing you.
When our job is to convince others that the stories we're telling matter, carefully selected words and images get the job done far more convincingly than slapdash exclamation points, which seem to insist upon excitement without the supporting evidence to actually create it. If you're writing a pitch, a case study, a contributed article, a press release, a white paper or any other piece meant to persuade or instruct, skip the exclamation points. All they'll do is tell the reader that you are excited but couldn't find the right words to show why.
Want to defend the exclamation point? Go for it!
 

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