I’m as guilty as the next guy. Probably worse. I’ve been trying to stick to a self-imposed rule, but I keep falling off the wagon: ONLY ONE EXCLAMATION POINT PER EMAIL! I usually blow it before the 2nd line.
At some point over the last 5 years, I began to communicate almost exclusively through email and its derivatives: Facebook messages, tweets, texts, and the like. These messages needed to be quick and succinct without any of that how-ya-all-doin’ banter to warm up the room. Often they are sent to people I speak to rarely or perhaps never at all.
Tom Wolfe has spot in The Bonfire of the Vanities where the 1980s stock ‘n bond traders are musing on developing phone relationships with people whom they’ve never met. When they picture their colleagues they see a phone — a beige plastic, curly corded, standard issue, push button desktop phone. There was something sad and broken about it.
Jump up a generation, and I now have clients to whom I’ve never said a word. However, it is likely that I’ve seen their mugshot on LinkedIn or Facebook. I’ll never know their voice, but at least I have a face — a happy-tanned snapshot from that summer trip when you were on a fitness kick 3 years back. It almost looks like you, and if you’ll grant me the same photogenic grace, we can both go on believing that it’s true.
This is the world we live in. And when I step out in this world, I like to put my best foot forward. I like to come across as an affable gent, a friendly face, someone who cares, or at the very least, the kind of guy who can muster enthusiasm when duty calls. Chipper in the mornings despite my pre-caffeinated haze. My lazy solution: BAM BAM BAM / BANG BANG BANG / !!!, I rip into the screen with extra exclamation points.
Which starts an inflationary cycle, a volume war, like a bad nightclub or a garage band where everyone tries to be the loudest guy in the room and no one wants to look like they aren’t having a good time.
A better solution was proposed by Ellen Susan, a photographer/designer who created the symmetrically flipped mark illustrated above. She calls it the “ElRey Mark”, named after her dog and winking at the Spanish influence in the design: It’s like you took the doubled exclamation system of Spanish (¡Thanks!) and welded the ends together, producing exactly one-half of the exclamatory effect.
I hope this catches on. At this point, we could use a new tool to say “thanks” like you mean it, without coming off like your meds need tweaking or a little fresh air would do you good. I’ll still try to keep it to one “!” per email, but when I break the rule, please know that I’m just trying to be nice!!!