Sure, it’s a bit joyless to ban exclamation marks
But I’d never go out with anyone who uses them in texts
The government is cracking down on the use of exclamation marks. Apparently, like most things, their proliferation is due to the use of social media. A generation of children is using them with undiscerning abandon.
According to new guidelines, the nation’s tots will be advised to use them only in sentences beginning with “how” or “what”. This, like all guidelines, is a blunt measure.
It’s definitely joyless. Making children, who are just learning to express themselves, worry overly about how they do so, is a bit mean and a bit confusing. I understand the appeal of the exclamation mark: it expresses enthusiasm! Children are very enthusiastic. Also, part of being a child is experimenting with things. When I was at primary school, my mother tells me that I experimented with spelling the word “though” as “vo” for a while. Was I wrong? Yes. But I was trying.
Furthermore, in later life – for it isn’t just children who use them liberally – it is a way of underplaying criticism, or showing that you aren’t actually angry! You’re just kidding around! You’re a nice person!
However, the latter is also an argument for insisting that we scale back their use. For in the wrong, older hands, the exclamation mark becomes a signal of insincerity. It’s passive aggressive. And I’d hazard they’re popular with women during professional correspondence, because we’re scared of seeming domineering or direct.
Also, using one is a bit like laughing at your own joke, and then apologising for it at the same time. It confuses rather than illuminates. What tone do you mean? Are you pissed off at me or not?
Moreover, crucially, they’re ruining Tinder and texting. You think you’re onto a good one – they’ve sent a few quick quips, they’ve suggested a good date, and then they use an exclamation mark and you just can’t fancy them. For the exclamation mark conjures all the above qualities – enthusiasm, insincerity, passive aggression – that just turns normal people right off. I smile bravely, then perhaps send my own missive using an exclamation mark. Then I go have an identity crisis and never speak to them again.
Perhaps it’s a tyranny against the nation’s children – or perhaps it’s a way of securing the future of civilisation. If we don’t want to get off with each other, there won’t be any children to teach.