You can have too much of a good thing.
In the last post, I wrote about punctuation marks that are used sparingly because writers are unsure about usage. But other punctuation marks are too popular.
Exclamation marks add drama. Excitement. They can be powerful. But using too many will water down their strength like drinks in Las Vegas. Marketing documents often overuse exclamation points in an attempt to sell a product or idea. More than one exclamation point in a short passage will decrease impact.
Here are some examples from a page of advice about writing a web site:
And here’s a link to a study showing why women use exclamation points more than men do.
The dash is used to indicate an abrupt change of thought or a disruption in the flow of the sentence.
The construction delay — we’re still not sure why it happened — will mean that the office will not be ready for the scheduled Open House celebration.
Changes in the tax code — the Child Tax Credit in particular — will affect us this year.
Some business writers think dashes make the writing sound urgent and trendy. But too many dashes are tiresome for the reader. If you have too many dashes, substitute commas or parentheses to mix things up .
In an e-mail to a friend, it’s OK to double up on punctuation marks:
I can’t believe he said that!!!
But in formal writing, duplicate marks show weakness as a writer; your words should convey the strength of your emotion without all the punctuation.
Of course, some writers disagree. One person created a Facebook page for “People who use multiple exclamation marks.” Here’s the explanation:
This page was made in dedication of my wife who does not understand the essence of using more than a single exclamation point. One can not truly understand one’s true feelings and emotion with merely one punctuation.
And Benjamin Franklin ends his famous advice about marrying an older woman with this statement.
They are so grateful!!
Of course, he was writing a personal correspondence, where the rules are more flexible; you can read more about his piece here:
Bottom line: For formal writing, don’t use multiple punctuation marks.
Next time: Lies your English teacher told you