Four exclamation points in that title. Not three. Not five.
Heavens, not five. Because, as the late British author Terry Pratchett opined “Five exclamation points, the sure sign of an insane mind.” Author Elmore Leonard was equally eloquent on the subject:
Not five, and absolutely not two, since, in an article for Smithsonian.com, author Rose Eveleth queried a twelve-year-old in the know who insisted that a single exclamation point is fine, as is three, but never two. When asked about the rule’s provenance, the preternaturally wise pre-teen sagely admonished “Nowhere. It’s just something you learn.” Now we know.
You see them everywhere. Exclamation points are the new picket fence of our lexicon, perhaps because EVERYONE WANTS YOU TO KNOW HOW EMPHATIC THEY ARE!!!! Yahoo found it necessary to incorporate one into their logo and the Twitterverse is rife with them. People sacrifice their 140 characters willy-nilly just so u get how mch I rlly mean this!!!!
Where did they come from, these slash marks that serve us when emojis aren’t available? According to experts, the exclamation point is a living remnant of our favorite dead language. The Latin expression for joy was an “I” stacked atop an “O”. And all these millennia later, some of us cannot help but express our joy, Latin-style.
If they started rationing exclamation points, I would be in trouble. I’ve been writing thank you notes lately, and when I look back over them to proofread, exclamation points abound. A sea of porcupine quills punctuate my sentences. It’s exciting to get presents! And I want you to know how much I appreciate them!!!
Why am I always plucking exclamation points from the quiver and pulling the bowstring? Other people manage to convey gratitude, or even enthusiasm, without slashing their sentences with exclamation points. Where I would gush “I’m so excited to see you!!!”, a more restrained friend would murmur a dignified greeting and you would probably feel just as welcomed, right?
Maybe it’s genetic. There are reportedly variations in the CHRNA4 gene, a cholinergic receptor that determines whether you respond with excitement or caution to any given stimuli. Perhaps I was born that way, a captive to sensory processing sensitivity (SPS), evidenced, according to researchers, by greater blood flow to areas of the brain involved with emotion, awareness and empathy. You can click here, by the way, to take a quiz to discover your own “excitability” type. At any rate, all I know is that while some people might be pleased to find a bouquet of pink peonies on their doorstep. I am breathlessly excited and must express it thusly: !!!!!!
There they are. The dreaded five exclamation points. I can’t help myself. Incipient insanity. Underpants on head.
Have an exciting weekend!!!!!