Are we using ! too much?

With the exception of some blog posts, I edit all the copy that runs on Nonstop. Typically, my routine is to wake up at 5 a.m., log into our content management system and read the copy in our editorial queue.

It might be because of the early hour, but what I find myself often editing out are exclamation points. I do mull it over before I replace the exuberant exclamation point with the less exciting period. After all, the last thing I want to do is squash a writer’s passion. And I personally use the ! all the time in email. (Not doing so can seem a little rude or cold.) But with my long history in the newspaper biz, where exclamation points are typically stamped out, I can’t help but feel uncertain whenever the increasingly popular ! crops up in copy.

Is it overly emotional? Unnecessary? Even a little juvenile?

I wonder all these things, then typically find myself deleting a few of the !s I encounter. Generally, I leave them in blog posts. After all, these are people’s blogs, which are first person narratives. I feel perfectly entitled to correct spelling and grammar, but if someone feels like saying, “The food was great!” who am I to change it to “The food was great,” even though readers will get the idea both ways.

But for non-blog copy, which are typically gallery captions, I take more liberties to keep the tone consistent. For instance, in Melissa Chang’s Chopsticks & Wine gallery, I deleted a few exclamation points.

Here’s one example. The original sentence was: “The red wine peppercorn short ribs from Le Bistro were to die for!” I didn’t think it lost much to take the ! out. But I kept this next caption as is, because the ! added tone: “Detour: Some of my old-time Facebook friends. We stop and talk. I’m already out of sequence for the food!”

Anyway, I have no hard rules on the matter. Newspaper copy editors do have rules on why exclamation points are unnecessary, but in this new media age, where more personal journalism has come into vogue, old rules have become old fashioned. We want readers to feel our emotions and excitement. After all, how are they supposed to get excited about what we’re writing about if we keep a sullen, distant tone?

I’m curious what you think about exclamation points. You like seeing them? Do we use them too much? Too little? Do tell…

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