Saturday, September 24, 2011

More About Exclamation Points!!!

Commenter Peter sent a link to this excellent bit about the disease of exclamation points in museum communications after reading yesterday's Maggie KB story about science museums. I guess he's been reading my thoughts on those pesky bits of punctuation. Thanks, Peter!

The writer, Nina Simon, is executive director of the Museum of Art and History in Santa Cruz, Calif. Among many other insights, she writes:

Excitement is good, but it's hard to direct it to a broad audience of visitors and passersby. Passion is best communicated personally, so that the receiver can soak in the directed energy of the giver. Exclamations fall flat when they are shared in the impersonal, one-to-many format of most museum communication. If a staff member talks a visitor through the museum map and then scrawls, "you will love this exhibit!" over a particular area, that statement feels genuine. It's infused with the specific energy of the relationship between those two people, no matter how brief. But that same statement printed on the map for all to see feels like a fraud. It turns a personal sentiment into a banal, desperate sales pitch. 
Simon gives an example of a sign that says "Enjoy the Sculpture Garden!" I admit that I would find such a sign a bit flat-footed without the exclamation point, but that got me to thinking. What is the reason to have such a sign in the first place? Do I as a visitor to the garden need to be encouraged to enjoy it? No. So take out the sign, not just the exclamation point.


Michael Leddy said...

Those museum signs are terrible. But I’d also cringe if a museum person wrote anything on my map, exclamation point or no.

I may be influenced by the exuberance of the poetry of the (so-called) New York School, but I like exclamation points for online writing; I think that they can help to signal tone. I think we’ve already agreed to disagree about that.

You know by the way that today is National Punctuation Day? (One guy’s marketing strategy, I think.)

Ms Sparrow said...

I have come to realize that it's mandatory to use exclamation points in Facebook comments. If I deign to acknowledge a grandchild's picture with a lukewarm, "Cute picture.", I will lose a lot of grandma points. I opt to go with, "Wow, great picture!" with true sincerity.
I really want to keep those grandkid pictures coming!

Daughter Number Three said...

Michael and Ms Sparrow, I agree on feeling the lack of expression in email or on Facebook posts. Often I write such things, complete with EPs, and then go back to see how many I can take out. It's hard to get away without at least one.

Unemployed Dragon said...

Guilty as charged...I use them reflexively...I'd pay for a keyboard with no EP...but I do see Ms Sparrows point about using them to indicate feeling. But I gotta figure how to use fewer of them.