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I'm Mark, an Exclamation Mark!

Hola! My name is Señor Excla-mason Di Mark.

Now, many of you might nurse a few staple grudges against me. These go along the lines of:

  • Does using an exclamation point make me come across as overly friendly and frivolous when I want to sound professional?

  • What is the ideal number of times that the exclamation mark should be used in a content piece?

  • Does my usage of exclamation points make my ad copy look like its shouting?

  • To use exclamation or not to use, it is the question rocking the digital literary scene today.

Fret not dearies, I am here to put all your doubts about me to rest. Let me begin by describing myself. I've always been a lanky guy with a little period (aka dot) dangling around me that I've gotten quite used to. Neither of us though is quite sure about who came first. Some might say that we predate, the old hen or egg (as to who came first) debate. This debate is in regards to whether the dot or the long-drawn line arrived on the literary scene first.

Sources state the dot or period existed before the exclamation mark as the latter was claimed to have been invented in the 1400s by Italian poet and Humanist, Iacopo Alpolelo da Urbisaglia.

This period or full-stop isn’t the only one I've had around me though, as I've also had time. Our time-ly relationship is much alike to that of the curious case of Benjamin Button. I won't be exaggerating (although that's one of my primary duties) when I say that his story was a clear inspirational take-away from mine.

Now, now, you might wonder – how? Well, I shall put those doubts to rest.

Let me take you back to my heyday. I was Agent 007 of the English language. I had the 'license to convince', the power to rouse emotions! Many readers found me as a symbol for passion, volume, surprise, commands and of course exclamation, in the printed world. One flattering reader said the following about me, much to my great pleasure!

Printed across frayed, dewy pages, a period makes a reader pause, but the exclamation point makes one sigh, feel melancholy or inhale sharply in excitement depending on the author’s discretion.

Here’s a brief lowdown on the history of my existence or my biodata if you may say –

  1. Upon invention in the late 1400s, I was officially put in use by the printing press in 1500s.

  2. I found my first true calling when the Spanish standardized and used me as a sign of warning.

  3. The general public in the 1800s used me to add volume for not just their grammar but also their tone. The author of Moby Dick has famously used me a record 1683 times in his book!

  4. Soon, I took on a feminine perception due to my use in what came to be known as sentimental novels. Whereas a certain Ernest Hemingway used me only once! In his novel – The Old Man and The Sea.

  5. Barring this little dip in my career, I was a rage among Graphic comic books in the 1940s. Did you know that due to my overuse the legend, Stan Lee once attempted to ban me?

  6. Jeopardy! – America’s Favourite Quiz show debuted in 1964. The Washington Post praised its entertaining service to all those bright and intense types in spite of me – the exclamation point.

  7. Time saw many odes being paid to me in the form of artists like Panic! At the Disco and an episode of Seinfeld where a break-up happens due to the guy’s lack of enthusiasm in terms of never using the exclamation point.

  8. The world of authors that had made me a part of their inner circle in the 19th Century suddenly woke up to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s harsh words against me – An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.

  9. This started my modern descent as many writers felt that I had become obsolete and was about to bite the dust! Pardon the exaggeration of my true feelings.

  10. Then walked in the advertising world, took one look at me and the rest, as they say – is history!

The mammoths of advertising saw me as their sure shot towards gaining attention in the quickest manner possible. This doubled my usage and soon led to the invention of the interrobang (?!). My amigo Question mark and I reigned supreme as one symbol. This was at the time of the mad men era of advertising and soon new versions of symbols started coming up, a bit too late for survival though.

Advertisers too began to take the minimalist route with the reliable period (.) to showcase the power of words over symbols. Fast forward to today where I am still having that heyday on social media because the full-stop is too drab and doesn’t convey the enthusiasm of the person typing. The internet and digital media are two pillars of the evolution of language and content marketers today believe in using me like a sword of thunder, more sparingly – the appropriate being one to three in a copy.

If you ask me about it, I’d definitely say that I’m A-Okay!



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