This is how many exclamation points you should use to be seen as sincere

June 29, 2018 - 10:48 AM
If you want to communicate sincerity or joy, consider breaking grammar rules and use exclamation points liberally. (Artwork by Uela Badayos)

If we were to follow grammar rules strictly, we could only use one exclamation point to end our sentences. But there are indications that multiple exclamation points convey a different message than the single punctuation.

The trend of using the exclamation at least two or three times to end a sentence was explored by internet linguist Gretchen McCulloch when she posted a series of online polls via Twitter.

In the informal polls, she asked, “If I wanted to convey genuine enthusiasm to you, how many exclamation marks would I need?”

Before making the poll, McCulloch shared with The Atlantic that an exclamation mark nowadays is used as “a sincerity marker” in emails and in social media.

The findings showed that people prefer using the punctuation three times by itself or at the end of the sentence, which made the language expert conclude that it’s possible for people to get tired of it.

“Maybe smileys will [become] more acceptable in business contexts,” McCulloch said.

Exclamation phenomenon

The Atlantic, which featured McCulloch’s mini experiment, reported that such change in the purpose of an exclamation point is similar to the way people regarded the word “awesome.”

“This sort of inflation is a natural linguistic phenomenon that regularly happens to words, like how awesome was once reserved for that which truly struck awe into a quavering heart and is now scarcely more than a verbal thumbs-up. But this time it’s happening to punctuation,” author Julie Beck wrote.

From emails to social media circles, many people welcomed the digital trend of ending the messages they sent with exclamation marks to show excitement or joy.

“Sincerity now online is lowercase, quickly typed so it’s fine if there are typos. But then typos become part of it. To me, keysmashing is the most sincere form of excitement,” illustrator Jomny Sun told the publication.

The Urban Dictionary defines keysmashing as “randomly hitting your keyboard to express an emotion. Works for excitement, anger, fangrilyness, and a whole bunch of other things, including adjectives.” This sentence, for example, is keysmashed:

that was askldjghalsdkgj amazing