(Pixabay.com)

(Pixabay.com)

COLUMN: Look! It’s an exclamation point!

We’re living in a time when everything has become A Big Deal!

Anyone who has worked with me here at the Summerland Review, and anyone who has been at a writing workshop with me, will know how much I loathe the exclamation point.

This form of punctuation was started with good intentions, as a tool to use occasionally for added emphasis.

But today, the exclamation point is not an occasional flourish. It pops up everywhere.

And when writers use multiple exclamation points, the result looks quite messy.

Consider the following sign: “WARNING!!! All unattended laundry will be discarded immediately!!! No questions asked!!!!!!!”

Sentences like these look like fields overgrown with weeds. I want to find a literary lawn mower and clean up the landscape.

The person who wrote the sign is doing the equivalent of yelling in print.

Besides, the sign is about unattended laundry. It’s hardly a crisis.

If a sign about laundry calls for sentences with three or seven exclamation points, what happens when there’s something much more urgent?

Would news about the start of a war require 10 or more exclamation points? Would a single exclamation point mean the war was just a minor skirmish or a barroom brawl?

While multiple exclamation points show up from time to time, the single exclamation point is far more common. And at times, it is used instead of a period to end a sentence.

It wasn’t always like this.

Years ago, before computers had been invented, manual typewriters didn’t have an exclamation point. To create this symbol, one had to type a period, hit the backspace, then shift and type the number eight to get an apostrophe.

That’s four steps to create one mark. Adding multiple exclamation points for emphasis took a lot of effort. Writers had to decide whether the sentence merited this much work.

Today, on my computer keyboard, it’s easy to put an exclamation point into a text document.

READ ALSO: COLUMN: Watching my language as English changes

READ ALSO: COLUMN: Choosing a face to show the world

All I have to do is hit the shift and type the 1. That’s the same amount of effort as typing a capital letter. For multiple exclamation points, I just keep holding down the shift key while typing the 1.

It’s almost effortless.

Because it’s so easy to use, this form of punctuation shows up far more frequently than in the past.

Does it matter someone uses an exclamation point at the end of each sentence or even a dozen exclamation points after an important statement? Isn’t this just a matter of personal style?

If exclamation points were simply a step in the evolution of punctuation, I wouldn’t be too concerned.

But this punctuation mark is also affecting the way we think and how we communicate with each other.

We’re living in a time when everything has become a big deal.

Or, more accurately, we’re living in a time when everything has become A Big Deal!

A small line item in a large government budget becomes A Colossal Waste of Taxpayer Dollars!

Criticism of a book or an art exhibit becomes A Tyrannical Assault on Freedom of Speech!

Almost anything can quickly become A Crisis Of Mammoth Proportions!

The problem isn’t the use or misuse of the exclamation point — even though it’s a form of punctuation I despise.

Instead, exclamation point abuse should be seen as the symptom of something more serious.

Not everything is worthy of an exclamation point. Not everything qualifies as a big problem.

Sometimes the line item in the budget is a minor issue, representing a few hundredths of a percent of the total.

Sometimes the criticism of a book or an art exhibit is a response to a badly created work, not the artist’s message.

Not everything deserves an urgent and immediate response. It’s okay to end with a period.

John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.

To report a typo, email:
news@summerlandreview.com
.



news@summerlandreview.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

RCMP Cpl. Cory Lepine pictured at BC Livestock Producers Co. in Kamloops, Nov. 16. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Meet B.C.’s only cowboy cop; a voice for the livestock industry

Cpl. Cory Lepine serves as a bridge between the law and those who make a living off the land

Penticton RCMP are looking to speak to this woman who allegedly spat on an employee at Skaha Liquor Store as well as dropping his phone on the ground. (Facebook)
WATCH: Unmasked Penticton woman allegedly spits on employee, drops his phone

Penticton RCMP are looking for the woman who was refused service for not wearing a mask

Send your letter to the editor via email to news@summerlandreview.com. Please included your first and last name, address, and phone number.
LETTER: Rezoning of Summerland Motel will affect Trout Creek residents

Council made decision despite protests from residents

The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League is mouring the death of former president Len Dergousoff of Salmon Arm. The longtime Revelstoke Grizziies board member, who was president from 1999-2002, lost a year-long battle with cancer at age 80. (Dergousoff family photo)
Former KIJHL president dies after cancer battle

Len Dergousoff, 80, of Salmon Arm, was longtime Revelstoke Grizzlies exec, president 1999-2002

People wearing face masks to help curb the spread of COVID-19 cross a street in downtown Vancouver, on Sunday, November 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. reports 17 COVID deaths, 1,933 new cases as hospitalizations surge over the weekend

There are 277 people in hospital, of whom 59 are in ICU or critical care

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

(Delta Police Department photo)
Cannabis edibles found in Halloween bag lead B.C. police to illegal lab

Delta police arrested a man and a woman while executing a warrant at a residential property Nov. 20

RCMP pictured at a motor vehicle incident during snowy conditions. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
B&E, stolen car in Vernon lands Whitehorse man in cuffs

Suspect takes off on foot in attempts to evade arrest

Penticton Search and Rescue along with the Penticton Fire Department located and airlifted an injured 21-year-old female hiker Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. (Mike Biden photo)
Penticton search and rescue airlift injured hiker off mountain

There has been an unprecedented amount of calls for search and rescue this year

Salmon Arm RCMP nabbed two Calgary suspects in an allegedly stolen vehicle on Highway 1 on Nov. 22, 2020. (File photo)
Salmon Arm RCMP use spike belts on Highway 1 to nab Calgary suspects

Arrests occur after Revelstoke RCMP clock allegedly stolen vehicle going faster than 160 km/h

RCMP stayed with the vehicle until it was towed to a secure lot. (Black Press file photo)
Armoured truck carrying millions of dollars crashes near Princeton

The incident occurred after the truck hit an elk on the road

A woman being arrested at a Kelowna Value Village after refusing to wear a mask on Nov. 22.(@Jules50278750/Twitter)
VIDEO: Woman arrested at Kelowna Value Village after refusing to wear mask, leave

RCMP claims the woman was uncooperative with officers, striking them a number of times and screaming

Most Read