I almost didn’t go to see Bedbugs!!! The Musical this weekend. Yes, it scored a rave review in The New York Times, but the mere sight of the title made my skin crawl. Not because of the bugs. Because of the exclamation points.
I hate exclamation points. To be clear: I don’t like bedbugs any better, but I’ve been fortunate enough never to meet one in person. Exclamation points, on the other hand, seem to pop up after every sentence. And sometimes! in the middle! too!! OMG, you guys!!!
Bedbugs are easy to eradicate. Call in the bug-sniffing dog, fork over unconscionably large sums of money to the dog-handler, the exterminator, and your dry cleaner, and then never visit an urban public space again. (Or, see the musical for an even more creative method.)
There are no exclamation point-sniffing dogs. No toxic substance can prevent their spread. We’re in this fight alone.
But I bring you good news: The power to eliminate the exclamation point lies in your hands – and mine. If we can prevent our right hands from hitting the shift key while hitting the “1” key with our left, we will never see another exclamation point again.
Okay, sometimes words alone just can’t express the level of excitement a writer truly feels. “I’m getting married.” tells a far different story than “I’m getting married!” So perhaps we should keep one or two exclamation points around for emergencies. This writer’s sainted English teacher suggested seven as an acceptable number. Sounds good to me.