In the face of research telling us that using full stops (or periods) makes us look like jerks, I’m going to put out this cautionary reminder:
Don’t assume you can just throw an exclamation mark at the end of a sentence to make it more interesting.
Need to make your copy more engaging and enthusiastic? Think about rewriting it and changing the angle before stretching out your pinkie to hit that exclamation mark.
A carelessly used exclamation mark can also make you look like a jerk
I once wrote a Facebook update for one of my clients – a global brand that wanted to tell their followers that they were participating in a long-term donation program to help poor children in Asia. When I asked another community manager to check what I had written, here’s what she had to say:
“This would sound more interesting if you just added an exclamation mark at the end.”
In this case, that exclamation mark could have made the brand look like it was bragging about its donation to charity. And while the brand should come off as enthusiastic about being involved in a worthy cause, would they really want to be seen to be shouting about it?
Because that’s what the exclamation mark does – it exclaims, it shouts, it squeals, it cries out, it commands, it curses! It’s enthusiastic and energetic and excited. Use more than one exclamation mark and you’re certainly treading into the zone of emphatically jumping on your reader in an attempt to knock them over and lick their face.
So should your B2B brand use the exclamation mark?
Don’t get me wrong – I love the exclamation mark! But when it comes to B2B comms, there’s definitely a time and place for it. The Oxford Style Manual cautions that for serious writing or topics, you should use it sparingly. I agree.
Posting a Facebook message to congratulate a client on their successful product launch? Go for it! But in your white papers? Consider using it on a case-by-case basis: is the extra emphasis truly needed, or could it make your message sound overeager, conceited, rude and commanding, or even condescending?
When in doubt, I suggest you read your sentence ending in an exclamation out loud. Do you sound silly when your voice rises in emphasis? Does it sound as if you’re hollering in an inappropriate place? Do you sound like a giddy child? Chances are, if it sounds out of place when you read it aloud, it will also sound odd in the minds of your readers.
Ready for some more great writing tips? Find out when you should use the passive voice in: I should use the passive! The passive should be used by me.