If you’re bad with grammar and punctuation you’ll need to read this. I am good at both because I take a great interest in them. Doesn’t that make me super interesting? Although deficient use of grammar and punctuation annoys me, I do have a certain grace for those it afflicts. I have, after all, had some indiscretions of my own. Just recently, I noticed I put an apostrophe in a possessive “its” in one of my posts. I KNOW!
Grammar is more difficult to learn, in English and in other equally complicated languages. So, fine, if you’re bad at it, it’s just not your thing. (That “it’s” was not possessive – see the difference? You’re – not your – welcome.) But punctuation gaffes are inexcusable when you’re using the most popular marks.
The most ill-used punctuation has got to be THE EXCLAMATION MARK.
On several occasions, I have been looking at my news feed on Facebook and seen the mark grossly misplaced. IT DOES NOT NEED TO BE EMPLOYED AS OFTEN AS YOU THINK. On a few occasions, worrisome and downright sorrowful status lines elicited comments from friends that were rendered inappropriate solely as a result of the use of an exclamation mark.
“I’m so sorry to hear your son has serious swine flu! Hope he gets well soon!”
“My thoughts are with you in this awful experience!”
“Oh Jane! Take care of yourself during this difficult time!”
Exclamation marks should be mostly used to convey excitement or happiness, and sometimes anger. Rarely, and only with utmost caution, should it be coupled with a phrase expressing sadness. If you’re writing something in response to someone’s distressing or grievous situation, it’s best to avoid it entirely. The reason is that it comes off as insincere, as if you’re not understanding the seriousness of the circumstance.
I know most people have good intentions and just use the exclamation mark to convey emphasis of sentiment. But if you don’t see how the above examples border on glib and blasé, then I suggest you err on the side of caution and avoid using the exclamation mark altogether.