Business Writing Quick Tips: exclamation marks!!!

Business English Quick Tips

Quick tips to help you write better for business

If you need to write for your job or business in English, these quick tips will help you succeed…

Many of us – and I’m as guilty as the next person here – resort to using exclamation marks when in all honesty they’re not justified.

Also, they’re often used to try to brighten up otherwise dull, boring text, especially when it’s directed at young people. Writers of this stuff assume that all they need to do to get bright young things’ attention is to stick several exclamation marks at the end of a sentence and bingo!!! Here’s an excerpt from a past article of mine in which I express my feelings about this…

I can see it now … a sniveling 40-year-old copywriter from the bank’s ad agency, hungover from too much wine and weed the night before, tapping unenthusiastically on a laptop and thinking “oh trollocks to this. What did the brief say? Write a booklet about finance and budgeting for university kids? Kids? OK. That means lots of patronizing twaddle and plenty of exclamation marks!!!”

Not only does this booklet assume readers’ mental age to be about 12, but also it is liberally peppered with lots of exclamation marks to make the incredibly boring subject matter even more boring.  For example … “…using a credit card to withdraw money from an ATM is treated as a ‘cash advance’. This means you pay interest charges up to 30% APR!!” Golly gosh, isn’t that horrifying!!?? (Well yes it is actually, but you don’t need to stick an exclamation mark on it to get point across to a bright 18-year-old.)

Over-use of exclamation marks makes your writing look amateurish and cheap. Most grammar police will tell you that an exclamation mark should only be used at the end of a short phrase that expresses strong emotion of some sort or another, e.g. anger, surprise, horror, humor, joy, etc. And that’s it. One “screamer” and one only, please – not a row of them gnashing like gleaming teeth in the moonlight.

If you want a little practice, try this…

Decide which of the following sentences really need an exclamation mark, and which don’t:

1.I can’t stand that woman

2.What a wonderful day it was

3.You’ll never guess who I saw

4.Stay away from that cliff wall

5.How beautifully she sang at the concert

6.Actually, it turned out to be empty

7.You won’t believe how angry I was

For a really useful 200-page guide to business writing in English, check out “Business Writing Made Easy” – you’ll find it very, very helpful! Click here

And for something a bit different, try the exercises associated with this article in my “30 Day Business Writing Challenge” – Click here

More in a few days … and if you have any questions about business writing in English please add them here in the comments section; I will try to answer them as well as I can!

Suze

(PS … the sentences in which an exclamation mark is justified are numbers 2, 4 and 5.)

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