Eileen Kern

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Email Sent without Exclamation Point

I thought The Onion was brilliant with this article. Although this satirical piece features a social email, I suspect the issue that they’re highlighting also carries over into some business settings. During one of my jobs that involved responding to a lot of email, I started my job writing very formal emails. No exclamation points, no emoticons–nothing that would mark me as an immature mind.

I soon realized that even in business writing, some people feel more comfortable with a casual, friendly “flavor” as part of their email correspondence. Not wanting to appear unfriendly, when I send a business email (especially to someone with whom I’ve corresponded before), I now often include an exclamation point or two. There’s something that feels a tad bit inauthentic about this–after all, I’ve read in more than one writing guide that exclamation points should be used sparingly, if at all. But on the other hand, if someone tells you that her sister just had a kid, isn’t the correct response “Congratulations!”? (Perhaps even–dare I suggest it?–“Congratulations!!”?)

On the other hand, I wonder if this may also be a gendered issue–that is, that it is more expected that women include exclamation points and emoticons as part of correspondence. I don’t have a citation right now, but if you have one (for or against), please leave it in the comments.