Friday 15 February 2019


Just been watching a fascinating documentary on the exclamation mark on Netflix, part of a series called Explained

Apparently there was a whole heap of new punctuation marks suggested in the 1960s - see above. Made me chuckle, and grateful they didn't all catch on, I think we struggle enough with the exclamation and ellipsis as is. 

Something that was really fascinating was the way men and women use exclamations differently. One copy editor summed up what I teach my writing students: 'You get one exclamation mark in your career, use it well.' Although, I tend to say per chapter. 

It's definitely noticeable in my own writing and in the writing of new writers that the early stuff contains far more exclamations and ellipses than later work, and that professionally published novels rarely rely much on either.

I can't stand overuse of exclamations, and now I think I know why. Apparently, when a woman uses an exclamation mark in a work e-mail, more people consider it professionally acceptable than when a man does. A man using an exclamation in a work e-mail is considered much less professional. However, women use more exclamations in their work to come across as friendly and non-threatening.

It gained popularity among women as they entered the workplace, in the same way we might put a winky emoji at the end of a text, to indicate that what we've just said shouldn't be taken too seriously. The popularity of the exclamation is dropping off a bit now that we have so many new emoticons and emojis to express ourselves with. And, one would hope, because women in the workplace no longer have to pretend to be airheads so as not to offend male colleagues ;o/
[UPDATE: some kind soul put the whole episode online.]

1 comment:

  1. One would hope...yeah, interesting that they're perceived so differently. I saw someone talking recently about a book review using the word 'strident' and how they simply discount a modifier if it is only used for one gender...sounded like a good rule to me! ;)