Author: has written 5267 posts for this blog.

Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
Return to: Homepage | Blog Index

55 Responses

  1. Shoshie
    Shoshie August 10, 2011 at 12:43 pm |

    OMG, I am totally a woman who uses a lot of exclamation points. I always feel really self conscious about it. But, yes, it’s definitely a friendliness thing rather than an enthusiasm thing. Or, maybe we need another punctuation mark that’s between enthusiastic and ecstatic? I dunno. A few of the women in my lab were actually talking about this the other day. It’s probably telling that all of us felt like we overused exclamation points, especially since none of us are especially chipper individuals.

  2. Jadey
    Jadey August 10, 2011 at 12:44 pm |

    There’s always the smiley face.

    :)

    I like to rely on emoticons to convey my feelings instead of moving my facial muscles – it keeps me looking young and fresh.

  3. Jadey
    Jadey August 10, 2011 at 12:45 pm |

    Also, thank you for not wishing us a happy period.

  4. Ellie
    Ellie August 10, 2011 at 12:46 pm |

    This is a constant struggle for me. I probably send at least fifty emails a day, and am frequently looking them over, switching out periods for exclamation points and the other way around, to try to get the tone just right and not allow it to be too much one thing or the other. Weird!

  5. auditorydamage
    auditorydamage August 10, 2011 at 12:55 pm |

    I’ll file that project alongside developing a “mea culpa” signal for de-escalating traffic interactions.

  6. benvolio
    benvolio August 10, 2011 at 1:03 pm |

    I write a ton of emails for work; it’s really prevented me from ever getting on the overuse of exclamation points, even in non-work writing. I find tone can better be conveyed by usage and syntax. I mean, in the example above, her friendliness is already conveyed in “I can’t wait to see.” (If she were impatient, it would be “I need it ASAP” or “Report: NOW” or something like that.) Exclaiming by punctuation makes her friendliness redundant. Which is to be avoided. If I’m to believe Strunk and White. Which I do, by all that’s holy.

    I used smiley faces a lot in correspondence way back in the day when it was hand-written, so that’s a thing I still use in keyboard writing. Even back in the day when I typed letters to my mom, I used to leave extra space for me to pen in the face before sending. That’s a hard habit to break.

  7. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. August 10, 2011 at 1:07 pm |

    Yeah, I do this purposefully. Email is a shit way to communicate and if an exclamation point makes people feel like I’m less intimidating (and I tend to have a forceful personality which is NOT ALLOWED) then fuck it. I exclaim. I also emoticon. I also say thank you as a general phrase.

  8. isitisabel
    isitisabel August 10, 2011 at 1:21 pm |

    I use periods a lot, and I really dislike using exclamation points if I’m not actually excited about something. I almost never use them in any work- or school-related communication, as I find them rather unprofessional.

    That said, a lot of my personal communication is done over the internet or through texting (making plans with friends, conversing with friends in other parts of the country, etc), and I do find myself using exclamation points and emoticons far more than I am comfortable with. Most of it comes from mirroring the communication of friends who use lots of exclamation points and smileys and the like, but occasionally I will consciously replace a period with an exclamation point simply to seem friendlier.

    I actually partially blame it on the difficulty of interpreting tone over the internet, especially sarcasm. If it makes my intentions clearer, I will just suck it up and add a damn smiley face. :)

  9. Becky
    Becky August 10, 2011 at 1:23 pm |

    Oooh, yeah. I tend to be really direct and to the point in my emails, and when I read them back it always seems like I’m angry or annoyed. So I definitely look for ways to soften the tone. If it’s a personal email, I’ll use emoticons. But if it’s a work email emticons don’t seem professional, so I do use exclamation points that way. A big one for me will be to add: “Thanks for your help!” or: “I really appreciate your assistance with this!” at the end of an email. And yeah, as a woman, I probably do worry more about my tone and not seeming angry or annoyed than a man would in the same situation.

  10. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil August 10, 2011 at 1:45 pm |

    As soon as this punctuation mark is formally invented, I need it. Now.

  11. Laurie
    Laurie August 10, 2011 at 1:51 pm |

    I’ve always found it helpful that I’ve been socialized to worry about my tone.

    My husband is forever offending people with his brusque, to-the-point, and exclamation-point-less emails. It’s gotten to the point where he actually asks me at times to edit his emails for friendliness; I often add exclamation points to his emails. I feel that my ability to convey friendliness has been a professional advantage, and my husband’s lack of ability in this area has been to his disadvantage.

  12. Nobody
    Nobody August 10, 2011 at 1:53 pm |

    I tend to adapt to my environment. When everyone else is putting exclamation points! in their emails I start to put more of them in mine. I feel like otherwise I’ll come across as unfriendly.

  13. Nahida
    Nahida August 10, 2011 at 1:54 pm |

    Shoshie: I always feel really self conscious about it.

    Ellie: and am frequently looking them over, switching out periods for exclamation points and the other way around, to try to get the tone just right and not allow it to be too much one thing or the other. Weird!

    Same, same.

  14. April
    April August 10, 2011 at 1:55 pm |

    I second the use of the happyface emoticon as an already-established “friendly period.” But I would bet a whole lot that happface emoticons are also, like exclamation points, used primarily by men.

  15. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub August 10, 2011 at 2:17 pm |

    I rarely use exclamation points, almost never in business correspondence or emails. Same with emoticons. Though I do try to keep it cordial but very businesslike.

  16. jackie
    jackie August 10, 2011 at 2:20 pm |

    I find at work I have no issue writing emails to my male colleagues – short, direct, to-the-point is fine and easy (with appropriate salutation and signature, of course – I still dislike the brusque one-liner). It’s with female colleagues that the careful parsing for politeness and perkiness comes out, as well as the addition of extraneous exclamation points. Not sure why – maybe I just feel like my female colleagues are more likely to notice and police this sort of thing, while my male colleagues (none of whom are directly above or below me on the command chain) wouldn’t care.

  17. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. August 10, 2011 at 2:33 pm |

    jackie: I find at work I have no issue writing emails to my male colleagues – short, direct, to-the-point is fine and easy (with appropriate salutation and signature, of course – I still dislike the brusque one-liner). It’s with female colleagues that the careful parsing for politeness and perkiness comes out, as well as the addition of extraneous exclamation points. Not sure why – maybe I just feel like my female colleagues are more likely to notice and police this sort of thing, while my male colleagues (none of whom are directly above or below me on the command chain) wouldn’t care.

    How interesting. I experience the exact opposite. If I don’t emote in my emails to my dude colleagues I can guarantee that with 15 minutes one of them will call me to make sure I’m not mad at them.

  18. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin August 10, 2011 at 2:47 pm |

    I am a no-nonsense, to the point sort of person, but I have been known to use smiley faces to soften the blow. Sometimes if you’re too straightforward, you come across as humorless.

    But I’m sure women have to make an extra effort.

  19. Pam
    Pam August 10, 2011 at 3:38 pm |

    And we should call this new punctuation the ‘friendly period’ and it should be blue and not red, just like in the tampon ads.

  20. Tyla
    Tyla August 10, 2011 at 3:49 pm |

    This is the most interesting conversation. I absolutely never use emoticons in work emails unless it is someone I email often (as in, on a daily basis), and I am turned off when I receive emails with emoticons. If I don’t know you and you send me an emoticon, I immediately think it is a sign of unprofessionalism. (Is that even a word?)

    Similarly, I often use many exclamation points when drafting an email, but I’ll go back and remove most if not all of them before hitting send.

  21. Autumn Whitefield-Madrano
    Autumn Whitefield-Madrano August 10, 2011 at 3:52 pm |

    I used to work for a magazine that had an exclamation point! In the title! (CosmoGIRL! And the GIRL! was upper-case! And then we changed it to CosmoGirl, and it folded! Frown!) And every e-mail we’d send had to end with an exclamation point or it would seem angry. I got into the habit of using a LOT of exclamation points, and I like that it adds a bit of spunk to a medium that can seem dry–I read everything onscreen, and it can communicate that, yes, I’m kidding, or I’m being flip–sort of my version of my longstanding wish for a “sarcasm font.”

    That said, I am ALL FOR a friendly period. You know what punctuation mark never gets used? } Like, what does } even mean? I’m a professional copy editor, meaning that I punctuate for a living, and I have no idea what it means. It’s not a parentheses, it’s not a bracket. It’s been WAITING to be colonized (zing!) by a feminist overtaking} Right?}

    Excellent post, Jill}

  22. de Pizan
    de Pizan August 10, 2011 at 4:34 pm |

    I almost never used exclamation marks in emails/letters, although I do find myself using them a little more when replying on blogs or message boards. On the other hand, I have an aunt who never ever ends the sentence in anything but an exclamation mark, no matter what the subject. Her emails will read pretty much like: “Son (x) is in jail again! And daughter (y) totaled her car for the third time this year, but she is ok so no worries! And we’ve just remortgaged our house! My position at (company) was made redundant and I’ve been let go!” It’s almost exhausting to read with all the exclamations.

  23. Jadey
    Jadey August 10, 2011 at 4:39 pm |

    Autumn Whitefield-Madrano: You know what punctuation mark never gets used? } Like, what does } even mean? I’m a professional copy editor, meaning that I punctuate for a living, and I have no idea what it means. It’s not a parentheses, it’s not a bracket. It’s been WAITING to be colonized (zing!) by a feminist overtaking} Right?}

    It’s a brace or a curly bracket – we use it in maths all the time. :D

  24. Jess
    Jess August 10, 2011 at 4:51 pm |

    Totally guilty (?) of this one myself. Also the emoticon overuse.

    I have, however, noticed that my Korean co-workers tend to use the tilde (~) as a punctuation mark a lot. For instance:

    Me, over IM: I think I discovered why X mix-up happened. (Explanation.)
    Co-worker: Ah~~

    When I asked what its connotations were, my friend explained to me that it’s sort of ‘to smooth things out’–partly in the sense of a drawn-out vowel sound (“ahhhhhhh”), partly in the sense of being polite, people-pleasing, or playful. Perhaps this would fit the bill?

  25. renniejoy
    renniejoy August 10, 2011 at 5:04 pm |

    Using a period feels so flat and monotone in texts that I always want to modify them to indicate interest or an invitation to respond.

    I use ellipses a lot…

  26. z
    z August 10, 2011 at 5:08 pm |

    Jadey: It’s a brace or a curly bracket – we use it in maths all the time. :D

    And in programming – it’s used in lots of programming languages to block off functions, sections to be iterated, and other logical blocks of code. (I’ve always referred to them as “curly braces”, but, Jadey, since you said “maths” above I’m guessing this may be a dialect difference?)

    You’re right though, Autumn, that it doesn’t seem to be used very much in natural language! But it looks SO WRONG to someone who has done coding (or at least to me) to see a closing curly brace without an opening one somewhere before it…

    (This was all off topic, sorry!)

  27. Autumn Whitefield-Madrano
    Autumn Whitefield-Madrano August 10, 2011 at 5:09 pm |

    @Jadey: Aha! Thanks! (Um, that was not ironic.) Aha~ Thanks}

    @Jess: I like it~ Truly, I do. I’ve noticed my gentleman friend uses the double dash as this, but specifically not an em dash. (He’s a copy editor too.) I’m going to start trying this more–

  28. Safiya Outlines
    Safiya Outlines August 10, 2011 at 5:21 pm |

    Am I the only person who was expecting a post on menstruation?

    On topic: This friendly full stop/period should have a squiggle. Squiggles always look happy.

  29. preying mantis
    preying mantis August 10, 2011 at 6:05 pm |

    Feh. I always feel like an asshole when I use extraneous exclamation points in work emails, like the recipient is going to mentally read it in a way-too-perky tone, but I do it anyway with my needier colleagues or work contacts I don’t communicate with often. It’s like doing a little prosocial dance over the internet.

  30. tree
    tree August 10, 2011 at 6:58 pm |

    exclamation points are also used to convey sarcasm or satirical enthusiasm. i think this usage is relatively particular to women at least partly because effusiveness and “positive” emotions are stereotypically feminine. so saying something like, “What do the ladies love? Cleaning products!” plays on all the advertising we see where the ladies do, indeed, love the cleaning products.

  31. LC
    LC August 10, 2011 at 8:29 pm |

    I remember the interrobang and the irony point, so I approve.

    @Jess, the tilde being used that way in Korean is interesting~ I do recall a Japanese shorthand that came through for a while which involved ~! as meaning EXTRA AWESOME~! I have no idea if it really did originate in Japan or not.

    Something that is “friendly” rather than “excited” does seem a good idea if we could work one in.

    I vote against braces because, like parentheses and brackets, they feel like they are ultimately about enclosing something. How about pipes? |

    Maybe a period plus something else? ~.

    What about the asterisk? It is friendly*

  32. Melissa Huang
    Melissa Huang August 10, 2011 at 9:13 pm |

    I do this all of the time. No email escapes without being read multiple times to make sure the tone is friendly, but not too friendly! Exclamation marks have to be used sparingly so they’ll think I’m nice but not immature.

    I’m not entirely sure I would want a friendly period though. That’s adding a whole new level of complexity to the email process. I can just picture spending ungodly amounts of time trying to find the perfect level of friendliness using a combination of friendly periods and exclamation points.

  33. Kate
    Kate August 10, 2011 at 9:28 pm |

    renniejoy:
    I use ellipses a lot…

    Me too! In my work emails, I tend to be brusque and to the point, but then add a closing sentence with a softener. Like, “thanks so much!” or “Hope you’re not too busy!” or I’ll trail off with an ellipse…

    I rarely use emoticons except in personal emails. I actually debated for about two minutes this morning whether to put a smiley in an email to my builders. I decided to – but if it had been a man answering the email, I probably wouldn’t have. I will sometimes use them in a follow up email. As in, email a: me asking for something. Email b: them replying positively or negatively. Email c: “Thanks so much! :)” or “No worries, whenever you have time! :)”

    In personal emails and texts I use emotions a LOT. I often think my boyfriend’s texts sound way too terse – he rarely uses them and basically drops punctuation altogether. I once cringed when he showed me a text he was going to send to his ex – perfectly polite, but bitingly devoid of exclamation marks. It was the text equivalent of that blank smile you give to someone who you wish would stop talking to you.

  34. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve August 10, 2011 at 9:53 pm |

    Wow, I just checked my sent box and then checked myself in the mirror to make sure I was still a dude! I use a lot of exclamation marks, but I never thought of it as a feminine characteristic. Perhaps I am the exception that is just “more excited” as Jill says in the OP. I have to admit, I have occasionally put ‘Whoo hoo!’ in an email. There I feel better now.

  35. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve August 10, 2011 at 9:55 pm |

    Sorry, I should have said “as Jill QUOTES in the OP…”. I wasn’t implying she’s taking credit for someone else’s writing, I just was too stupid to remember it properly.

  36. April
    April August 10, 2011 at 10:42 pm |

    It’s funny: email has been a primary function of my job(s) for the past 6 years, and yet I feel more of a compulsion to avoid emoticons and exclamation points in blog comments (and blog posts) than I do in those work emails. Then again, most of the time my work emails have just been a more efficient way of communicating casually with other coworkers in the same office, and not something requiring a lot of attention to professionalism. Email’s always been used primarily as a chat function among my coworkers, and event he emails that are sent to a lot of folks in the department about business-related things are typically so chock full of typos and grammatical errors, that I actually feel like a pretentious ass for using appropriate punctuation sometimes.

    …Actually, that touches on another point: I fricken LOVE semicolons, but rarely use them outside of a “serious” blog post, school paper, or other “official” document, even when not using one grates at my own sense of aesthetics and proper grammar, just because I am afraid people will think I’m showing off or being too snooty. Either I’m exceedingly paranoid, or this is a more widespread thing that I realize. Anyone else have this issue? With semicolons or other proper grammar-related things, that is.

  37. Nix
    Nix August 10, 2011 at 11:24 pm |

    if we have a friendly period than can we have an actively aggressive period too just in case i wanna be passive about my aggression.

  38. tree
    tree August 11, 2011 at 1:26 am |

    April:
    …Actually, that touches on another point: I fricken LOVE semicolons, but rarely use them outside of a “serious” blog post, school paper, or other “official” document, even when not using one grates at my own sense of aesthetics and proper grammar, just because I am afraid people will think I’m showing off or being too snooty.

    i LOVE semicolons. they are my favourite punctuation mark! (i actually typed ‘functuation’ there the first time.) the world needs more (proper) semicolon use; it would lead to better reading for all.

  39. nico
    nico August 11, 2011 at 2:09 am |

    I’ve seen this study in a couple of places now, and I feel like it’s always being framed as “women use too many exclamation points/friendliness indicators” when I feel the exact opposite is true: men use far too few.
    Tone gets lost or misconstrued in emails SO easily, but most men don’t see that. So many guys I know have gotten in touble with their bosses, girlfriends, friends, and colleagues over terse, angry-sounding emails and it’s so easily avoidable.
    Laurie @11 is totally right: women’s socialization to be extra aware of other’s feelings – while a disadvantage in other areas – is a definite advantage in this one.

  40. Andie
    Andie August 11, 2011 at 8:28 am |

    renniejoy:

    I use ellipses a lot…

    Also guilty of this.

  41. Brendan
    Brendan August 11, 2011 at 9:09 am |

    I think the real question is “Do feminists use exclamation points more than non-feminists”. If they do, it’s totally okay!

  42. Christina
    Christina August 11, 2011 at 9:24 am |

    de Pizan: On the other hand, I have an aunt who never ever ends the sentence in anything but an exclamation mark, no matter what the subject. Her emails will read pretty much like: “Son (x) is in jail again! And daughter (y) totaled her car for the third time this year, but she is ok so no worries! And we’ve just remortgaged our house! My position at (company) was made redundant and I’ve been let go!” It’s almost exhausting to read with all the exclamations.

    I have a friend of the family who does something similar EXCEPT SHE WRITES IN CAPS ALL THE TIME. HI CHRISTINA HOW ARE YOU. HOW IS THE NEW JOB? WE SHOULD GET IN TOUCH SOON. LOVE YOU MISS YOU!

    Makes me feel like I’m talking to her from a windtunnel or something.

  43. LC
    LC August 11, 2011 at 9:39 am |

    I am fond of the semicolon as well. This despite my tendency to mangle its proper usage. (I simply let myself be impressed by those who use it with verve and gusto.)

    One question comes up. Back in the letter-writing days, tone would have been just as difficult. Was there a noted difference in punctuation style?

  44. Caperton
    Caperton August 11, 2011 at 10:28 am | *

    I spend so much time editing exclamation points out of other people’s copy that I’ve gotten paranoid; certain clients love to send us copy telling us how great their new program is!!! And how they’re glad to have you here!!!

    The general feeling in my office is that if you feel the need to tack a bang on at the end, you really need to go back and make the copy itself more exciting. I had an editor tell me that I only get three bangs for my entire career, so I should use them wisely. I still feel tempted sometimes to use them in e-mails to, yeah, make them more friendly, but my compulsion usually makes me go back and rewrite instead.

  45. Annabelle
    Annabelle August 11, 2011 at 1:24 pm |

    I probably spend as much time agonizing over exclamation points, periods and periods-plus-emoticons as I do writing the actual content of my emails. I had assumed it was just another personal neurosis, so it is nice to know I’m not the only one doing this!

  46. K00kyKelly
    K00kyKelly August 11, 2011 at 2:16 pm |

    I wonder if women both use more punctuation AND read more into what punctuation is there… hummm.

    Also, agree with the sentiment that many men don’t control enough for tone in written form.

  47. taryn
    taryn August 12, 2011 at 9:03 am |

    jackie: I find at work I have no issue writing emails to my male colleagues – short, direct, to-the-point is fine and easy (with appropriate salutation and signature, of course – I still dislike the brusque one-liner). It’s with female colleagues that the careful parsing for politeness and perkiness comes out, as well as the addition of extraneous exclamation points. Not sure why – maybe I just feel like my female colleagues are more likely to notice and police this sort of thing, while my male colleagues (none of whom are directly above or below me on the command chain) wouldn’t care.

    this is incredibly true for me as well.

  48. petpluto
    petpluto August 12, 2011 at 11:05 am |

    April: I fricken LOVE semicolons, but rarely use them outside of a “serious” blog post, school paper, or other “official” document, even when not using one grates at my own sense of aesthetics and proper grammar, just because I am afraid people will think I’m showing off or being too snooty. Either I’m exceedingly paranoid, or this is a more widespread thing that I realize. Anyone else have this issue? With semicolons or other proper grammar-related things, that is.

    I have that same fear (and a lot of the time, it’s over semicolon use too)! When I’m composing an e-mail to my boss, I type out the e-mail with all of the wording I like, with no contractions, and punctuation marks like the semicolon; and then I go back, reread, unpunctuate, and take out some of the more obscure words and replace them with commonly used words. It’s worse when I’m replying to someone in my office (or my boss), because so few people use things I find essential like capitalization and periods that I end up vacilating between mimicing that style or sticking firm to my own writing style. Those are the times I probably most abuse the exclamation point…

    I like the idea of a friendly punctuation mark, and really like the ~ because I see it so little in the “wild” and I think it’s pretty cute, if a punctuation mark can be described as that.

  49. Weekly Feminist Reader
    Weekly Feminist Reader August 14, 2011 at 10:52 am |

    [...] I could not agree more about the great need for a “friendly period.” (Via Feministe.) [...]

  50. Clare
    Clare August 14, 2011 at 3:53 pm |

    I find this article a little puzzling. Why is it that we do research like this, then suggest that women should modify their behavior to be more “male”? The article treats the fact that women use exclamation points more frequently as though it is a weakness or a negative behavior. Why not write the article from the perspective that men are less likely to use them, thus appearing less friendly in written communication? I work in a heavily male-dominated field in academia, and have no desire to change my written communication habits. While my use (or lack thereof) of exclamation points may be distinctly feminine in nature, I don’t see that as problematic. I see my “friendliness” in communication as an asset, rather than as a weakness. Feminism often seems to look down on “feminine” behaviors, but isn’t that really the opposite of what we should be doing? Shouldn’t we be encouraging each other to feel free to act on behaviors despite their femininity? Certainly we shouldn’t feel pressured in to certain behaviors or gender rolls, but we shouldn’t look down on others because they are associated with a certain gender.

  51. Dana
    Dana August 14, 2011 at 4:27 pm |

    Oh, man. I think I’m guilty of two things…

    The ellipses and the exclamation point!

  52. Angelike
    Angelike August 14, 2011 at 11:40 pm |

    I find, even worse, that I use the “?” to indicate confusion even when I know there’s none — more like a “check that I’ve got this right.” That is, “so we’ll see you Wednesday???,” when I actually mean, “remember that we made plans for Wednesday; if you change plans, I’ll be totally pissed b/c I rearranged everything.” And everyone’s right — I only do that with women. With guys I’d just say, “don’t forget that Wednesday’s on.”

  53. I may have an exclamation point complex. | Everything Glitters

    [...] got me really thinking about exclamation point usage most recently was an article I read online at Feministe. (And for the record, no, I am not a feminist. I’m just female and have opinions. Don’t [...]

  54. Courtenay
    Courtenay August 31, 2011 at 10:01 pm |

    Clare:
    I find this article a little puzzling. Why is it that we do research like this, then suggest that women should modify their behavior to be more “male”? The article treats the fact that women use exclamation points more frequently as though it is a weakness or a negative behavior. Why not write the article from the perspective that men are less likely to use them, thus appearing less friendly in written communication?

    Hi, Angelike….I actually wrote the article in question, and I wasn’t disparaging women for using exclamation points, I was disparaging punctuation for not coming up with a solution so we don’t have to use them. (Also, it’s a humor piece, so everything is a bit grain-of-salty). Exclamation points weren’t created to make communication more friendly, they were created to denote, as Schoolhouse Rock said, “excitement or emotion,” so in many cases, like the ball bearing example I gave, they’re completely inappropriate.

    I’m wholeheartedly in favor of women attempting to make business correspondence more friendly, I just want them to have the proper tool with which to do so (friendly period.)

    ~Courtenay

  55. Courtenay
    Courtenay August 31, 2011 at 10:05 pm |

    Oops! My comment was directed at Clare. D’oh! Sorry.

Comments are closed.

The commenting period has expired for this post. If you wish to re-open the discussion, please do so in the latest Open Thread.