5 times you should drop the exclamation points in your writing

I’ll be honest; seeing too many exclamation points at once makes me slightly uncomfortable. It’s like talking to that one friend who yells at you during a casual conversation. Unless you’re speaking to your friendly, yet partially deaf abuela, there’s just no need to shout.

Similarly, putting an exclamation point at the end of every thought creates stress or excitement where none is warranted. I envision the writer reaching through the computer screen and shaking me to catch my attention. I call this sensation “exclamative discomfort.” These days it lurks around every corner, especially on social media—and even in the Tweets of some of the world’s most powerful people.

And okay, I’ll admit it; exclamation points are fun! Using them is like kicking off your shoes and not caring where they land! Once you start, you can’t stop! But the more you exclaim, the less exciting your words become. It’s like absinthe or red pepper flakes; a little goes a long way.

Using too many exclamation points is like yelling at someone standing right in front of you

Exclamation points: the written equivalent of yelling… or megaphones

Here are five places you should definitely check yourself on the exclamation points.

1. Work emails

Writing emails can be intimidating. Whether you’re sending a reminder to a co-worker or a proposal to a prospective client, piling on the exclamation points is as bad as writing the whole thing in capital letters (don’t even get me started on that).

Work emails occupy the gray area between a corporate memo and the free-for-all that is the Internet. You want to appear professional yet conversational; concise yet congenial. The best way to achieve this balance is through carefully chosen, evocative vocabulary—not excessive punctuation.

2. Article titles

A good article can draw you in with just the title. Effective titles give a sense of the content while grabbing your curiosity. You might think that exclamatory sentences will capture people’s attention, but the truth is that the title’s content is much more important than its punctuation.

If you want to create a truly interesting title, don’t rely on an exclamation point to do all the work for you. Adding one to a mediocre title will not improve it; it will simply show that you don’t know how to resist temptation.

The world's best newspapers use expressive language instead of language in their headlines.

The world’s best newspapers know that exclamation points don’t always make for good headlines

 3. Cover letters

The cover letter is like the resume’s more expressive cousin. Leaving behind the dates and logistics, it’s your chance to really talk yourself up. A good cover letter expresses who you are to your potential employer, and it might just land you that dream job.

While enthusiasm is appreciated in any work environment, your tone should remain professional. Exclaiming how badly you want the job or how fun it would be to work together (!!!) will not make you any more qualified. Keep the tone serious while expressing genuine interest in the work.

4. PowerPoint presentations

Visual presentations are a great way to share information. They offer a simple format with bullet points, graphs, definitions and images. In fact, presentations don’t need much punctuation at all.

In an informative presentation there should be no need for exclamations. The visual portion can help clarify or organize your talking points, but the presenter should be getting more attention than the slideshow. If you feel the need to express hope, surprise or urgency, use the expressive powers of voice instead of an exclamation point. 

A good PowerPoint presentation does not rely on exclamation points to express emotion and excitement.

Enchant your audience with your stellar presentation skills—not your punctuation

5. Advertising copy

The best print ads use creativity to connect a feeling to a product or service. The key here lies in word associations, stirring images and new perspectives. When I see an exclamation point in an advertisement I imagine this conversation:

   “I’m liking this copy, but I need to feel the excitement. How can we make the excitement more apparent?”

Adds exclamation point with Sharpie.


Falling back on punctuation is tempting. But ultimately, more creative solutions exist for those willing to work a bit harder.

Expression vs. exclamation

It’s true that there are times when nothing will do but a good ol’ exclamation point. But in today’s digital world, we’re talking less and less, relying instead on exciting punctuation and emojis to make up for a lack of facial expressions, body language and inflection.

Emojis are used to express emotion, but they're no substitute for well-written text.

Emojis are great, but they can’t replace powerful language

There’s often a need to more accurately express all the emotion that can be lost when putting our thoughts into writing. We look at a sentence and think, “Does this come off too harsh? Do these words express what I’m feeling?”

When the answer is no, too often we think throwing an exclamation point at the end of a statement will pump emotion through every word. Resist that urge and believe in your writing skills. A well-formed sentence can express excitement on its own.

So here’s my challenge to you as a writer: drop those extra exclamation points. Then take the opportunity to get creative and make your words pop off the page all by themselves. No yelling necessary.

Need some help with your content? VeraContent is a creative language agency that produces expressive and exciting material—without excessive exclamation points.

Anna Castellanos
Anna Castellanos is a freelance writer and editor from Chicago, Illinois. She has a degree in the Spanish language and International Studies and an appetite for great works of literature. Find her skeptically reading ingredients of various packaged goods at a supermarket near you.
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