Stop using these!!!

Moe Rubenzahl
3 min readJan 10, 2022

My friend Mary took a brave stand against the mighty exclamation point.

and it stirred me to thought. I am a peaceful man and love my content to be content, but have been known to exclaim in excess.

As a writer, I wince at excessive exclamation. I stand with F. Scott Fitzgerald who wrote, “Cut out all those exclamation marks. An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own jokes.”

Exclamation points tell the reader how they are supposed to feel, as if the prose is too weak to do its job. When writers write about writing (as they loooove to do), they advise we use action and dialogue to tell what’s going on, rather than explanation. And exclamation is exuberant explanation.

This is not to say that one should never use one. But like too much makeup, strong elements are best used rarely, discreetly.

Elmore Leonard scolded, “You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.” Which means an average of one every book and a half.[1] Harsh, Elmore.

Does the advice from these OGs apply to the Internet era? Can we develop characters when all we get are 280?

Another writer who writes about writing is Ben Yagoda. He guiltlessly uses them by the dozen in an article on them, where he writes, ”A friend’s 12-year-old daughter…said that a single exclamation point is fine, as is three, but never two. Asked where this rule came from, the girl said, ‘Nowhere. It’s just something you learn.”[2]

(While sanguine about exclamation, kids don’t even use periods. They end sentences by, well, ending them.)

Bad news for Mary: They seem to work. Buffer reports that “An exclamation mark isn’t commonly used on Facebook — 71.17% posts studied did not use them. But the posts that do use them see 2.7 times more engagement on average.”


And more is better: “A post with 7 exclamation marks receives 7.84 interactions on average. Now that’s something to get excited about!”[3]

More bleh.

Did you know that we don’t even know where the damn thing came from? One theory is that it is from a Latin exclamation of joy, namely io, analogous to “hurray.” The first use in English was the 15th century.[4]

In math, the exclamation mark indicates the factorial operation, which starts off unsurprising: 1!=1 and 2!=2. 3!=6, barely worth the raise of an eyebrow, but starts to take off. 5!=120, 6!=720. Rattle that up to 20! and you’re looking at 2 billion billion! Which I think is surprising, and want to tell you so!! but I don’t want to blow my Elmore Leonard quota.

Nor do I want to disturb Mary’s peace.



Moe Rubenzahl

What CEOs need to know about marketing. I bring 35 years of big-company marketing experience to small companies and their CEOs.