One of the most frequently shared ThinkUp insights measures how many exclamation points you’ve used. We’ve talked about it as the “excitement insight” but perhaps we’ve been looking at it wrong. Language is a living thing. It changes and evolves, its rules get updated. While exclamation marks have traditionally signified excitement or enthusiasm research indicates that in text environments, the meaning of an exclamation point may be changing.
A peer reviewed study published in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication found that exclamation points in online discussions were markers of excitability only 9.5% of the time. What were these exclamation points signifying if not excitement? Odds are good it was friendliness.
According to the study “exclamations functioned as markers of friendly interaction 32% of the time.” When you can’t see facial expressions, it seems the exclamation point has become the punctuation equivalent of a smile.
Skeptical of the data? Let’s turn to a second source which is none other than “America’s Finest New Source,” The Onion: “In a diabolical omission of the utmost cruelty, stone-hearted ice witch Leslie Schiller sent her friend a callous thank-you email devoid of even a single exclamation point, sources confirmed Monday.”
That’s right, it is a diabolical omission to leave exclamation points out of your friendly communications. You don’t want to be diabolical. You should tweet something really happy and friendly! Right now!
Image by Jose.Madrid