When we ask recruiters to submit a sample of a typical job ad to work on during the course, we don’t see many without at least one exclamation mark! Sometimes as many as three!!! Or even five!!!!!

If you’ve attended our course, you’ll know Mitch Sullivan is not a fan of the exclamation mark. He says they’re only used by teenagers and fashion journalists. Co-trainer and copywriter, Jackie Barrie, doesn’t mind them so much, but then, she did originally train as a fashion journalist.

The little exclamation mark is also known as a “bang”, “astonisher”, “gasper”, “screamer” and “shriek”. Using them too much has been named “bangorrhea”.

We think recruiters use them (or over-use them) in an attempt to inject excitement. We’d argue that they only belong after an actual exclamation, such as: “I’ve won the Lottery!” Instead, we suggest using the power of your writing to trigger the desired emotion in the reader. And ‘excitement’ isn’t always it, but that’s another story.

Shock horror. An article in the Guardian in December suggests our views might be outdated.

Today, it seems exclamation marks can not only be used for “pathetical statements” – those that arouse our sympathies – but also to:

– laugh at your own joke

– offer a greeting

– express thanks 

– challenge a hostile viewpoint

– try to defuse an argument

– bolster an apology

– convey irony

Irony is usually intended to be subtle and ambiguous. It doesn’t need to be delivered with a bang.

The article suggests sarcasm could be conveyed better by resurrecting the inverted exclamation mark previously used in the 17th century, or the SarcMarc from 2010 (upside-down 6 with a dot in the middle), or snigger point (horizontal round bracket, like a smile), or the upside-down face emoji.

It also says: “If we really want to ensure that someone doesn’t misunderstand our teasingly playful comment, they can always simply say: “What a boring article!”

We hope you won’t do that. Or maybe we do. We’re confused now.


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