Business Writing

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Syntax Training | Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

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May 03, 2009



The rule I would recommend is only use an exclamation mark after an exclamation, and if you are not sure what an exclamation is, find out.


Hi Lynn

Thought you and your readers might find this recent article from The Guardian interesting - it's a witty and detailed look at exclamation marks.




Clare, thanks for recommending that fine article. I loved it. Or: I loved it!!

As you know, the end of the article covered other punctuation marks. I especially enjoyed Fowler's comment that the colon delivers the goods that were invoiced previously. (I'm writing from memory, so I am leaving out the quotation marks I probably should be using.)

Again, thanks for sharing.

Naeem Ahmed

But we sometimes see !!! in newspaper ads. What's the reason?


The exclamation point is a sure sign of an amateur copywriter. You can spot bad copywriting by the frequent use of exclamation points. It's worse when several are used at the end of a headline. Stop it!!!!!

If you're interested in copywriting, you can visit my copywriting blog at


Michael, thank you for responding to Naeem's comment. I agree with you.

Word Nerds--I love it! (And that exclamation point is just fine.)

Naeem Ahmed

Michael, thank you for your informative response.


Hey Lynn,

Just wanted to share this with you.

One of my clients wants to remove an exclamation mark from a restaurant review I've just written, presumably because of its reputation for being the preserve of the amateur writer.

It occurs in the phrase "Top marks for seasonality!", a genuine exclamation. To the sensitive reader, losing the exclamation mark makes the phrase read like irony.

smfifteen's rule is spot on.



Hi, Clare. I'm sorry your exclamation mark is being rubbed out. I like it.

At the same time, "Top marks for seasonality" is clear to me--but without the energy.


In my work I communicate daily by email with many vendor/partners I have never met. Most of them overuse the exclamation mark. Of those that do, I perceive them as younger, more junior in status, possessing less expertise, and sometimes irritating. I never consciously recognized this until I read your article. Fascinating!

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Christine, your comment valuably points out how exclamation marks can color our view of the writer: "younger, more junior in status," etc.

Thanks for sharing.


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