The not-so-humble exclamation mark. Or ‘the screamer’ as it’s sometimes known in writing circles. It’s used to convey surprise, disbelief, dismay, indignation and exasperation. Except it’s not! It’s used everywhere! All the time! Which means it loses its meaning and impact! So there’s no point using it! So stop it! OK?!
What am I ranting about?
All too often, I see exclamation marks used willy-nilly in marketing. Often, I’m guessing (I’m hoping) when the copy in question has been written in-house, rather than by a professional.
Why are there so many exclamation marks on the loose? Apparently, to add emphasis. Not to convey surprise, disbelief, dismay, indignation and exasperation, but to simply draw attention to a point.
In other words, to shout.
What’s wrong with shouting?
Trouble is, shouting all the time gets you nowhere.
Marketing today is about talking to your audience. Or, more specifically, talking with them. It’s about putting a metaphorical arm around their shoulder and gently guiding them home.
Shout and today’s marketing-savvy consumers are likely to ignore you. Or something worse.
The answer: Use the exclamation point sparingly
The over-use and abuse of this perfectly useful punctuation mark is rendering it redundant.
So, next time you hit shift and your finger heads to the 1 key, stop. Ask yourself, ‘Do I really need this exclamation mark? Or should I hold it back for when I really need it? If I just want readers to take notice of what I’m saying here, what else can I do to bring emphasis to my point?’
And no, that doesn’t mean you can use capitals. BECAUSE THAT LOOKS LIKE YOU’RE SHOUTING TOO!
For more marketing world-weary rants, moans and the occasional useful insight, check out our copywriting blog. Alternatively, get in touch if you’d like to make your messaging sing without using a single exclamation mark.
Paul Leonard is an award-winning copywriter and creative director. He has plied his creative craft in the UK and Australia for more years than he cares to mention, working with clients of all shapes and sizes across an equally diverse range of industries. When he’s not building brands and crafting copy, concepts and campaigns, he enjoys running, drinking iced coffee and writing profiles about himself in the third person.