The Most Arrogant Punctuation Mark
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Hello. I’m Brian Rosenberg, jack of all trades at Macalester College and I’m here today to talk about the most arrogant punctuation mark, the exclamation point. Arrogant because every time it’s used it proclaims I’m exciting and I’m important. If I were the god of punctuation and I could eliminate one punctuation mark, it would be the exclamation point. Why is it that I dislike the exclamation point so much? It’s because it’s so often an excuse for a lazy use of language. Using an exclamation point is like taking a dull sentence and trying to make it exciting by using a very loud voice or by putting emphasis on words that really don’t need any emphasis or by taking an essentially dull person and trying to make him interesting by putting on a funny hat. That doesn’t work very well. Think about the differences between these two sentences: Moby Dick is a great novel! Moby Dick is the most influential and daring American novel of the 19th century. The first sentence is lazy. It uses an exclamation point to try artificially to generate excitement. The second sentence has content and meaning and gives the reader some reason to feel interest in and excitement about the sentence. So my advice to you is try to avoid at all costs using the exclamation point as a crutch and as a substitute for the right language, and look instead to generate interest and excitement in your prose by using the right words. If we had more time I would talk as well about how much I hate exclamation points and all caps in texts and emails but we’ll leave that for another message. For now, enjoy your semester and remember, write well.