Alright, so this is something I struggle with on a day to day basis! Honestly, I’m just a very easily excitable person, so when I use exclamation points, they’re genuine. However, overuse of exclamation marks is very well documented online as one of employers’ top pet peeves, and a lot of people attribute overuse of exclamation points as a sign of immaturity or being inexperienced. It’s kind of scary that you could offend someone, or make a poor impression on them, simply based off of the type of punctuation you use. Exclamation points can’t be completely bad, so when is it appropriate to use them and when isn’t it? Here are some guidelines for safe usage of exclamation points in different contexts.
You should feel pretty safe about using exclamation points in your personal interactions. If you have a really informal relationship with someone, they most likely won’t be judging you on your grammar and punctuation. Unless they call you out for it, I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Your personal Facebook page and personal Twitter account are okay places to use exclamation points as freely as your excited heart desires.
Stay away from using exclamation points in resumes and cover letters. These are professional, formal documents and a lot of people associate exclamation points with being informal. In your cover letter, you may feel the urge to place a, “I am very passionate about ____!” or something similar to that. However, you really should restrain yourself; by saying you’re passionate about something, you’ve already indicated enthusiasm.
When you’re excited: Sentences like, “I can’t wait to meet you,” or “I look forward to working with you,” don’t usually need exclamation marks because the sentence vocabulary already shows enthusiasm; adding the exclamation points can make it read like you’re talking abnormally loud. The exception to that rule is if you know the person very well, and think that adding a “!” to the end of “Thanks” or “Have a great day” in an e-mail will make their day.
Ask yourself, “Will this have the same meaning without exclamations?” Sometimes using an exclamation point can make a difference. Consider “Great.” and “Great!” or “Thanks.” and “Thanks!” They have different tones to them. The one with a period could sound slightly pessimistic or sarcastic when read whereas the one with the exclamation point can sound excited and happy. Re-read the full document, with everything in context, to get a better idea about how the recipient could interpret your message. Be careful and aware that text on a page doesn’t use the same inflection as speaking does.
Reasons to use exclamation points sparingly: If you always use exclamation points, they can turn into a period in people’s minds, and they will filter them out. Then, when you really want the exclamation to be genuine and stand out, it will get lost in a sea of regular excitement.
Never use multiple exclamation points in a professional setting!!! Again, this is fine to use in informal and personal context, however most professionals agree that there should be ONE end punctuation mark to each sentence. Professionally, it doesn’t reinforce the exclamation, it just breaks grammatical rules.
Overall, just be conscious of the context you use exclamation points in, who will be reading it, and how it will read. Use your best judgment, along with these guidelines, and everything will work out just fine! (Notice the correct usage of exclamation point, I’m being encouraging).