In written communication, particularly emails, one of the hardest challenges can be conveying your tone of voice. How many times have you read an email wondering if the sender is angry, annoyed, snappish or maybe just being brief?

I know in many cases, I overcompensate for this by using an exclamation point to show how really exciting something is – whether sending an email to client about upcoming media coverage or writing newsletter copy about a new event.

But when I have used an exclamation point in three sentences in a row, I know I have gone too far. And then signing off with a big Thanks! just seals it.

I recently saw this flowchart created by HubSpot that outlines when it is appropriate to use an exclamation point. The answer: rarely. Beth Dunn points out that if you are depending an exclamation point to convey how exciting and important something is, you are not using the right words.

Dunn writes, “But we as writers tend to get into trouble when we try to make punctuation do the job that words are supposed to do. Words are what we should use to get our readers excited about our content, not punctuation. That’s what language is for, after all. It’s an amazing tool for communicating ideas, conveying emotion, and yes, even stoking the fires of excitement in others.”

Here is the flowchart and click here to see it larger on the Hubspot blog.

Exclamation point chart

How about you – are you as guilty as I am about using too many exclamation points?