Throughout the centuries, humans have argued about infinite things. You know it, I know it. If you're a human with a consciousness then it's pretty much unavoidable. While many of those debates have been heated, few have been as long and drawn-out as the use of exclamation marks in copywriting. The use of conjunctions are another one which drives people right to the edge of their sanity. And no, I'm not covering that little beauty today. That'll be one for next week. Rejoice, people who love causing a stir!
The intense world of SEO copywriting exclamation mark anger
The exclamation mark is like that guy or girl at the party who some people love and some people absolutely despise. That person who just seems to appear and want to talk a lot when you're in a bad mood, or just don't feel much like communicating. If I was a religious man and belonging to the bad-mood-brigade, I'd say something along the lines of “God forbid that two of them turn up at once...”
Angry grammar-obsessed people all over the world simply hate it when two or more exclamation marks turn up at once in rapid succession, and they have every right to. After all, like the person who appears whenever they want to with a big smiley party face, the exclamation mark is relatively free of constraints, making it open to abuse all round. Perfect if your sole intention is to cause an argument!
Copywriting, SEO and when to use exclamation marks
Out there, in crowds and in pubs and in car parks and under the cover of bus stops, there's this very strong feeling that exclamation marks should only be used once in an entire page of copy. In fact, so stubborn is this feeling that, at times, it feels like a law.
It's all a load of nonsense, of course. The use of exclamation marks depends entirely on context. There are no universal rights or wrongs. The problem there, of course, is that context is not entirely fixed, and everyone sees things slightly differently. The context of everything is in a perpetual state of flux: what one person deems appropriate, another may find utterly disgusting.
Who are you writing for?
Fact: I frequently use exclamation marks in copy (when I am allowed). Sometimes, there is more than one per paragraph – it just depends. Then again, if I am writing more formal copy I might not use an exclamation mark for 20,000 words. There are no rules. That doesn't mean that you cannot use exclamation marks for more formal copy, of course...context is the key thing. It's all about what the reader expects. At times, in copywriting, doing what the reader doesn't expect is the absolute best thing that a writer can do. Then again, it takes discipline. A lot of copy doesn't require it and needs to be delivered completely straight-up.
Some people say that using exclamation marks is immature. I'd argue that it isn't. In fact, you could argue that it takes great maturity to restrain from using dozens of them when you've just written 20,000 words-worth of copy. See, exclamation marks, I believe, are powerful little fun-loving tools that convey all kinds of emotions, depending on the scenario. Depending on what you are trying to say and make people feel. Reading copy with no exclamation marks, when they are absolutely necessary, can be a bit like sitting across the table from someone who is trying to convey meaning and personality, but is struggling, due to their complete and utter lack of facial expressions.
So, it's complicated...
More than one is wrong, but there are rare times when a few in a row can be 100% right
A bit like stuffing your face with doughnuts when you've had a hard day at work, sometimes it's just right to have more than one exclamation mark. One of those rare unique times might be if you're writing for a teenage audience. Without wanting to generalise, I'd say most people would agree that some young teenage girls employ a crazy amount of exclamation marks whenever they possibly can. The point? When it comes to English language usage, SEO copywriting isn't about doing exactly what your teachers at school do when they're trying to ram home a certain grammatical point (even if it feels like I am trying to do that now!). It's about getting the right message across. In this context, you could get away with 2 or maybe even 3 exclamation marks every now and again. It wouldn't hurt and the girls would thank you for it. So would you're client, if it led to many more sales. In fact, the overall look and feel of the copy might benefit substantially from it. And you'd feel good because you did what you did and took a chance.
So it's about being brave, really. Doing what the teachers told you not to (some of you will find this easier than others...). Sometimes, when the conditions are right, being a rebel can really pay off.