If I tell you I have a thing against exclamation marks, will that bind you up so much you can’t Facebook message me anymore?
Lookit, I like them. I even love them, in context. And on social media – AOK to exclamation mark the heck out of your content in a conversation.
We do it because it’s difficult to express tone and excitement in text without the aspects of being face to face (or even being able to speak to someone on the phone).
If you’re writing or editing your website copy, however, I always start by removing at least two thirds of exclamation marks throughout the content.
Because your message should be exciting enough without yelling (!!!) or convincing (!)
If you use too many exclamation marks, your reader will start to feel as if you’re not authentic: why are you so overexcited, what are you hiding, is the product not as great as you say it is so you have to overcompensate, are you hyper?
If you’re a blogger on hyperactivity then, yes, lots of exclamation marks are probably relevant.
Have a look at your copy this week and see where you can cull a few !’s!
While we’re on punctuation, let’s take a look at the use of ellipsis.
I love a good ellipsis if it’s used to show an intentional omission of a word. In school, you would have typically used it when quoting someone:
“….(plural ellipses; from the Ancient Greek: ἔλλειψις, élleipsis, “omission” or “falling short”) is a series of dots (typically three, such as “…”)”
In copy, we often use it in the same way; where a client has given us a lengthy and wonderful testimonial and we’re showing part of it:
“…Her sassiness, sense of humour and the perfect amount of professionalism brings authenticity and panache to everything she touches…”
Yep, that’s me!
We also use it to show that we’ve entered that dreamy, half-finished, blissful sentence where the thought trails off into the mysterious nothingness…
Or if we want to show longing.
Just like an exclamation mark, using the ellipsis in place of a comma dilutes its power. Gone are traces of melancholy, and the clandestine concept of what might happen next.
We’ve been talking about this in my online community for the betterment of copy – The Crisp Copy Class.
One of my gorgeous participants (a branding genius; engaging, hilarious, clever and with more graphic sass in her little finger than I have in my whole ether) said “but what do I use instead?”
A plain, ol’ comma.
Your words should pop, not your punctuation.
This blog is not a grammatical How To – this is website copy for the sake of marketing, not University Literature 101.
Yes, I do believe there’s room to move when using punctuation in website copy
For example: we don’t tack on full stops to the end of all our sentences if the sentence is a title and it doesn’t look swish. That full stop is ignored, unloved and unwanted. It’s sacrificed for the good of ‘the look’.
However, when you’re planning for your copy to be as polished and presentable as your product, it’s worthwhile to give it a once over and remove anything that weakens your scrumptious message.
Let’s not even start on SHOUTING AT PEOPLE TO GET THEIR ATTENTION.
That’s for another day.
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Make your reader lick the screen