There was a time when I seldom used exclamation points. I never used them in business letters because I was afraid I'd look like someone who would spill her sixth cup of company coffee on important documents and gossip all day with co-workers. I was careful not to use too many of them in letters to my parents so that they  wouldn't call up anxiously inquiring if I was on drugs. I certainly didn't put them in notes to guys I was interested in. I wanted to appear mysterious and alluring, not desperate for a date.

      But now I use them all the time! I have to! Otherwise people would think I had no enthusiasm for their friendship or no energy to get the job done!

      Recently I was sorting through my emails over the last five years. If I didn't know myself, I'd think my personality had changed completely-- from a person striving to be at least a little dignified to someone who was the human equivalent of a Jack Russell terrier!!  

       Now when I get emails from friends who don't use a lot of exclamation points, I wonder if they're mad at me. Why didn't they write "Hi Polly!!!!"? And are they being sarcastic if they simply write "Congratulations." rather than "Congratulations!!!!!!!!" when I tell them I found a good parking spot? I can't just write "Happy Birthday!" anymore on a friend's Facebook page. Because the person before me has written "Happy Birthday!!!!!!" What?-- the recipient will think--she's too half-hearted to hold the key down?

     Of course I absolutely have to use them when I Tweet, even if it's only to say that I've just washed the dishes!   Otherwise, everyone would wonder why I bothered telling them!!   

       The other day I realized that even when I ended sentences with an exclamation point, I had begun to feel the need to insert (!) after individual key words, like: "Confirming my teeth (!) cleaning appointment (!!) with you, Dr. Carlson!!!"  And when I read books now, I find myself beginning to wonder what Henry James was thinking when he wrote: "Live all you can - it's a mistake not to." Dude, it should be: "Live all you can!!!!! It's a mistake not to!!!!!!" Then the reader will go, "Awesome! I'm there with you, Henry! Rock on with The Ambassadors!"

     Yet sometimes my new,  exclamating self exhausts what's left of the other me. Recently I counted up the exclamation points I'd used in one morning at the computer. 378!!!!!! Meanwhile, I was still in my bathrobe, hadn't taken a shower by 1 PM, and felt badly in need of a 10 hour nap.   I saw that one of my emails consisted of "!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"  and nothing else. And it was to a stranger and not in response to anything he had written to me.

       So here's what I propose: let's have an annual Nixclamation Day. Maybe after that 24 hours we will regain energy for our real-life interactions and activities, a renewed sense of what really does excite us, and the right to be deeply unenthusiastic about our friends' announcements of their two-pound weight losses.  Maybe we'll even rediscover the power of this: .


Polly Frost's new book, With One Eye Open, is a collection of 25 of her humor pieces. Her website is

April 24: "[The HST] lifted a curtain from our view of the universe, changing it so profoundly that no human can look at the stars in the same way..."

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysley Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
In the Light of What We Know

Zia Haider Rahman's mystery of a brilliant Bangladeshi mathematician's past barrels through the Ivy League, London high finance, and spy-haunted Afghanistan in a page-turning tale of exile, intrigue and the price of friendship. A Discover Great New Writers selection.

The People's Platform

Once touted as the foundation for tomorrow's digital democracy, the Internet is increasingly ruled by a few corporate giants, while millions of contributors till its fields for free. Astra Taylor looks at why the web has failed to deliver a communitarian cyberscape, and offers a compelling case for restoring its original vision.

A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.