Speaker 1: Every day around the world, millions struggle with the same question, two, exclamation point or not to exclamation point. Exclamation points are friendly, but they can also be too friendly. They show you’re excited, but can also make it seem like you’re shouting. In a work e-mail, in the tone, but you can also look less serious, and if you don’t use exclamation points, sometimes you risk seeming mean
Speaker 2: you wrote Myra had the baby, but you didn’t use an exclamation point. Elaine once got dumped over it. I would put exclamation points at the end of all of these sentences and all that. Well, you can put one on this one. I’m leaving.
Speaker 1: The way they’re perceived in a professional setting can vary widely depending on gender. When sent by a female coworker, nearly half of male respondents found the use of exclamation points in this email to be very professional. But when that same email was sent by a man, that number dropped significantly. Humans are communicators and innovators. We sent a man to the moon, but we only have three ways to end the sentence. Exclamation points are everywhere in popular culture, even though it’s not totally clear what they mean. Why is the exclamation point so confusing? And is there something better?
Speaker 2: Don’t do it for me, do it for the paper grants
Unidentified: got me no. Keep America great exclamation. And they text to each other. They don’t need to know
Speaker 2: spelling, they don’t need to know grammar. Only you can prevent forest fires. It’s an exclamation point. It’s a line with a dot under it.
Speaker 1: Who better to help us understand how to use an exclamation point than the high priestess of punctuation copyeditors and what better way to get the unvarnished truth than that? A copy editor conference, cocktail hour. Hey, your team won the game. That’s fantastic.
Speaker 2: Egads. Holy shit. Or I’m pregnant. Or I got to the earth. I’m not any of these things. Wow. You get one exclamation mark in your career. Use it wisely. In editing school. They told me to use them minimally. And I didn’t listen because I think they’re dumb because you use multiple exclamation marks. You sound like an overexcited 14 year old professional correspondence. I wouldn’t use more than two times. I use the estimation, Mark, personally. All the time, like, it’s really egregious and I really need to get help for it.
Speaker 1: But the question of how to use an exclamation point used to be simple. You put exclamation points after exclamations, words like low mark behold that are meant to grab the reader’s attention. The Italian poet Jacobo Opilio Darba Sire claimed to have invented
Speaker 3: it in the Renaissance. There was this sense of the contemporary culture being broken or decayed and needing to go back and find a better foundation for the arts and culture and society.
Speaker 1: And they turn to antiquity, to ancient Athens and Rome and to organs like Cicero. Daraba Sayan decided to mark his exclamations to indicate the livelier way they should be read aloud. He called his creation the Pontoise, admitted Tibbles or the Pontoise.
Speaker 3: Exclamatory I began noting the ends of such clauses with a plain Portus and a comma placed lengthwise above it.
Speaker 1: The new Pontoise took off and was used this way for centuries. By the seventeen hundreds, the Spanish had standardized, turning it upside down and also placing it out in front, missionaries and European colonial powers spread its use across the globe and on to dozens of languages. But applying exclamation points to written traditions that didn’t originally have them could be tricky when one of the great masterpieces of old English Beowulf was rediscovered in the early eighteen hundreds. Many editors debated whether or not to apply an exclamation point to the poems. First word that.
Speaker 3: What, what which means, listen up or in rap music, it’s kind of like yo or yo, listen up
Speaker 2: like hey,
Speaker 1: yo, yo, and Beowulf is a pretty different story depending on how you punctuate it.
Speaker 3: Quests Wyngarde the on dog old. They got three. Mifune on who the atha lingoes. Ellen Freeman. If that exclamation point is there, the narrator is pretty jazzed about this past,
Speaker 1: no other kind of punctuation has the same power as the exclamation point to signal a feeling
Speaker 3: by the time you get to the 18th century and people started using it not just for grammar, but also for tone. My friend, this conduct amazes me.
Speaker 1: Great American authors like Herman Melville embrace the exclamation point to convey passion. His classic Moby Dick had one thousand six hundred and eighty three.
Speaker 4: I can see that figure now, palpably neat, pitiably respectable, incurably forlorn.
Speaker 1: But then after 1920, the exclamation point became uncool.
Speaker 4: Writers are starting to associate the exclamation mark, on the one hand with the sensational headlines of the yellow press and on the other with the sentimental novels written by
Speaker 1: women like Mrs. Southpaws.
Speaker 4: In either case, the exclamation mark is unmanly. It’s sustained,
Speaker 1: and one of the most influential writers around this time was also one of the manliest. Ernest Hemingway. The old man in the sea had one. Hemingway’s contemporary F. Scott Fitzgerald appears to have succumbed to the pressure in her memoir of their affair Kilogramme, Graham claim Fitzgerald once told her, cut out all these exclamation points and exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke. It’s an attitude that persists among writers even today.
Speaker 5: I think the explanation point is a little useless, it adds, and sort of unnecessary weight to the end of the sentence. And so I’ve steered away from my personal writing and my professional writing
Speaker 1: writers may have shone the exclamation point, but not everybody did. Advertising took the exclamation point and ran with it in order to get your attention to sell your stuff. From the 1930s to the 1940s and 50s, the number of print ads with exclamation points in them doubled. And while advertising was having this love affair with the exclamation point, one of the most successful punctuation innovations was born. The interrobang.
Speaker 6: There has never been a symbol of that, used both of them as one symbol. It was always two or three pieces of tape, which is pretty and elegant.
Speaker 1: Penny and her late husband, Martin Spector, ran a successful ad agency during the Mad Men era of advertising
Speaker 6: in September, got married in December. I used to go dancing and drinking and he didn’t drink and he didn’t
Speaker 2: dance, so
Speaker 6: I had to find other interests.
Speaker 1: One of those interests was working on a small typography magazine called Type Talks.
Speaker 6: We were at dinner one night and he was lacking for pages and all of a sudden he thought of the interrobang. So he called of the art studio that we use and he said, Is anybody there around who can draw? And we went over. We were there until about three o’clock in the morning. And he came up with a number of versions of the interrobang,
Speaker 1: the name combined in Tarot for interrogate and bang four exclamation point, a slang term that said to have emerged from comic books. Martin Specter’s interrobang got off to a promising start. It was included in the popular font Americana and as an option on multiple typewriters. It was even the title of a 1969 Italian erotic thriller.
Speaker 2: Keep your chin up. And I’m like, Really? How? Because I was going to finish
Speaker 1: redesigning the exclamation point. Seemed like it might hold the solution. The French writer Airfix Basan introduced the exclamation point. A demonstration of goodwill or welcome the conviction point. If you need to say something with unwavering certainty and the authority point to share your sentence with a note of expertize. But none of these nor the interrobang caught on because they came too late. A different design trend had already taken hold the
Speaker 4: famous Doyle Dane ads for folks and popularized the bug in the early 1960s, when absolutely the other direction
Speaker 1: VW ushered in simplicity and a period in direct opposition to competitors like Chevrolet. In print ads, their usage plummeted, yet in TV shows based on comic books, they became iconic.
Speaker 4: You look at the original Batman show on television where they’re saying WAMM and little balloons are going up. So we can appreciate these things always with the understanding that we. Don’t take them too seriously, and that’s what allows people to use it, but always with a sense of I don’t really mean this
Speaker 1: exclamation points appeared in the pop art of Roy Lichtenstein, popular musical titles and for the first time campaign slogans until finally the bubble burst with satire.
Speaker 4: Popular culture in that period becomes almost an obsession of American culture, but always with one or another form of attachments.
Speaker 1: Ironic, it’s campy. And this culture shift coincided with another women’s advancement in the workplace
Speaker 2: in a position of authority. A woman has two requirements to fulfill. If she fulfills expectations to be a good woman, she will be liked, but she will be underestimated. If she fulfills the requirements of a manager or a leader, she will be respected, but she will probably be called that word. That starts with
Speaker 1: periods where direct and could seem stern. Exclamation points became code for nice.
Speaker 2: I ask you, for example, do you want to go out tonight? And you say, yeah, I don’t think you really want to. Yeah, you need to be enthusiastic to really mean it in writing. If you don’t have an exclamation point, it’s like you don’t need it. And for many women, in fact, you need multiple ones.
Speaker 1: In a 2006 study, the only study ever done on this, nearly three quarters of all exclamation points in online correspondence were used by women. But that didn’t mean the exclamation point, didn’t stop indicating passion or irony either, or volume commands action, warning surprise and of course, exclamations like the tweets of Donald Trump
Speaker 2: during the day in the office of a number of people that don’t just call out a tweet. Do you call an exclamation point?
Speaker 1: I do. The exclamation point hasn’t so much evolved over time, so much as it’s accumulated, meaning
Speaker 5: there are so many meanings that we’ve put onto it. Right. And so it can kind of be anything. And in that sense it’s become kind of nothing.
Speaker 1: Writing to each other constantly over email, text and social media. It’s changed how we communicate. And in a lot of ways, the exclamation point is having a heyday on the Internet report.
Speaker 5: Conures is forced to move in with Kris Jenner
Speaker 2: by Kim Kardashian.
Speaker 5: It’s so ridiculous. You’ll see something like a backup headline or a media take out headline that is totally exaggerated, which is also adopting this type of Internet language and Internet speak in a very unique and interesting way. But online, this is fun. Let’s just have some fun with it on Twitter. I’m like, I’ll put five exclamation points in a tweet just because it’s like it’s kind of silly, but it’s kind of the point to you kind of like trying to play up the emotion.
Speaker 1: But online and on our phones, we now have lots of ways to convey tone,
Speaker 2: emoticons, emojis means gifts, all these ways of saying don’t take what I just said literally and don’t think it’s in any way negative. A lot of it is just showing goodwill. But now that there is so much conversation going on online that especially older people worry and that’s always been the case. They feel like this is license plate language, LML, for example, or LML laughingly. But idk for I don’t know and many of us linguists point out, we’ve always said that for example anyway I FCP, but I think it’s, it’s just the same process of language changing and adapting to the current needs.
Speaker 5: Language and writing is supposed to be fluent, it’s supposed to be tenuousness, it must be able to stretch it. But you know, in a lot of ways, the Internet is still very new and young and sort of the wild, wild west. I think anything kind of goes.