A modest proposal for use of exclamation points

Exclamation PointI went to Starbucks today! It was awesome!! I got a grande mocha latte frappa coffeechino!!!!!!!!

We’ve all seen these types of posts/emails/texts. Excessive exclamation points seems to be more and more common. I am not the type of person who normally complains about proper grammar and punctuation. Language changes with time. The only reasonable definition of correctness is simply “Is it widely accepted?” If enough people do it, it will become accepted. Language changes to allow people to communicate better.

What I don’t like are changes where communication becomes less meaningful. If you put three exclamation points for, “I love pizza”, how many should you put for, “I won the Nobel prize”? The meaning of this punctuation mark is being lost.

We keep having to add more and more exclamation points to convey emotion. I’ll call this Exclamation Inflation©. (It’s now copyrighted. If you use it, please send me a dollar).

The core problem is that we are treating exclamation points like they are on a linear scale: two exclamation points is twice as much excitement as one. This won’t work. There are orders of magnitudes of difference between the significance of some events.

Think of other scales that have to measure huge ranges. A 5.0 on the Richter scale is 10 times larger than a 4.0, because the size of earthquakes can vary so much. If the Richter scale were linear, the top value would be ten billion.

So I propose that we treat each exclamation point as a ten-fold increase. You would use one mark for ordinary exclamations. If you think in terms of how often the thing you’re exclaiming might happen, then one exclamation point would be for things that happen every month or so. Two for things that could happen yearly. Three for once in a decade events. Four for once in a lifetime events. Five for once in all of history.

To make it clearer, here are some examples in various categories.

Personal:

  • I got an A on the test!
  • I got the job!!
  • We’re having a baby!!!
  • I won an Academy Award!!!!

Science:

  • News media misunderstands and misinterprets scientific study!
  • New study shows that eating chocolate makes you skinny!!
  • News media understands and correctly interprets scientific study!!!
  • Theory of Everything proven!!!!!

Religion:

  • We’re having fried chicken at the fellowship meeting!
  • Easter drama cancelled due to bathrobe shortage!!
  • The pastor finally got saved!!!
  • The Second Coming is happening right now!!!!!

Of course, most people will simply ignore this and some will think that their child’s birthday party warrants as many exclamation points as the moon landing. So we have the matter of enforcement.

Since virtually all writing is electronic now, the government can monitor exclamation point use. Each citizen would be allocated a certain number per time period. Say 5 per week. You would be taxed for each exclamation point that you use over the limit. Like the scale, the tax would grow exponentially, but by a factor of two, not ten. The first excess exclamation is a $1 fine. The next $2. At this rate, the tenth is $1,024 and the twentieth is over a million dollars.

We would, of course, imprison those who could not pay but insist on excessive exclamation.

It’s my 416th day in prison!! We’re having gruel again!!!!!

Updated: January 19, 2016 — 8:44 pm

Books by Travis Norwood

Sugar Scars

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But one survivor, a nineteen-year-old girl, requires more than simple food, water and shelter. As a type 1 diabetic her body desperately needs insulin to stay alive. With civilization gone, no one manufactures it anymore. She hoards all the insulin she can find, but every day marches toward the end of her stash of vials. She has a choice. Accept her fate and death, or tackle the almost insurmountable task of extracting and refining the insulin herself.

Brilliant scientists struggled to make the first insulin. What hope does a high school dropout have?

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Suspended Between

Julya’s scream shatters through the metal of the starship when a simple number destroys everything she dared hope for in her life—love, a future, happiness. One simple number...

101

4,096 colonists lay in deep suspension. Some of Earth’s best, they are chosen to colonize a new world and are on a 200-year journey through space. Julya was one of them, dreaming of the life she’ll live when she awakes on the new colony.

But Julya isn’t asleep anymore.

When an accident causes two suspension pods to fail—those of Julya and an engineer named Dax—both are forced to face the unthinkable…

What happens when you are in deep space, on a spaceship never designed for the living, with only one other person? Can you survive? Can you find love? Can you face the unexpected?

What happens when you awake early? Not just early, but 101 years early?

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