The Exclamation Point!

JoAnna Bennett

JoAnna Bennett, O’Brien Communications Group

25 October 2018

Emotions play a significant part in our interactions with co-workers and clients. If you’re a manager, you must make sure your folks feel appreciated and motivated to get their work done. If you’re an account manager, your clients must know you’re doing the best you can for them. Perhaps there’s a bit of emotional labor that comes into play when you’re communicating with people, particularly if you’re doing it by email. And the emotion to be conveyed might be enthusiasm or joy.

A recent experiment by WSJ’s Nikki Waller describes her experience when she removed exclamation points from her emails for one month. I can’t say the results surprise me. A well-placed punctuation-screamer can capture a part of your personality and your emotion in anything you write. And like anything in life, if you quit something cold turkey, folks are likely going to ask you a few prying questions.

If you watch the video in the beginning of Nikki Waller’s article, you can listen to a few more opinions on the topic of exclamation points in email. Personally, I loved hearing the opposing advice from Barbara Corcoran and Amy Bohutinsky on how to approach the use of them — as if they know the reasons you might use them in any given email. If you’re writing an email to a business partner about a change in budget, exclamation points might not be useful (unless the change is huge, positive or negative). In contrast, if you’re a manager, you may need to use a screamer for motivation or to quell an awkward situation. It also amazes me to think Corcoran or Bohutinsky might presume to know what you might hope to achieve in any given email.

Especially in business communication, here’s a rule of thumb: Don’t let punctuation define you or your brand. Utilize all the punctuation marks available to you, including exclamation points, if they clearly convey your points, your brand personality or yourself.

Clear communication is always my objective.