Deciphering tone in writing has always been a challenge. But as digital messaging spreads, it's becoming increasingly difficult to pinpoint the emotion behind our words. Using a period can often make the writer seem angry. Using emoticons can make someone seem more likable.
So what about the exclamation mark? This flowchart from HubSpot shows that most of the time, there are better options than tacking on a couple extra exclamation marks to your sentence:
Exclamation marks are one of the only pieces of punctuation that clearly state emotion, according to Mary Hiatt's 1977 study The Way Women Write, which looked at women and men's writing styles. "The frequency of use of exclamation points is one indicator of what might be called 'emotionality' or 'excitability,'" she wrote.
But exclamation marks aren't solely used to demonstrate excitement. They can also convey sincerity. A study in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication found that exclamation points can function as markers of friendly interaction and to emphasize intended statements.
Seinfeld, famously, explored exclamation usage:
"Maybe I don’t use my exclamation points as haphazardly as you do," the man says to Elaine — a great reminder that we should all be more thoughtful when it comes to punctuation.