Is it really necessary to utilize seven exclamation points to illustrate how excited your are that you’re eating sushi?

Might it be possible, in fact, to illustrate just how delicious your caterpillar roll is with five exclamation points? exclamation_markOr one, even? I dare say there are people—I’m not saying I’m one of them, or suggesting they’re superior to everyone else—capable of expressing happiness, passion, and excitement without the use of a single exclamation point.

I know, right? Who are these superheroes of restraint dwelling on the subjects of love, nature, beauty, and yes, even sushi, without turning to that most excited of punctuation marks—the exclamation point?

Well, William Wordsworth, for one. “Daffodils” is one of the most exuberantly joyful poems I’ve ever read, before he gets all melancholy and drags us from his jubilant scene to his lonely couch.

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the milky way,

They stretched in never-ending line

Along the margin of a bay:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,

Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:

A poet could not but be gay,

In such a jocund company:

I gazed–and gazed–but little thought

What wealth the show to me had brought:

There. Fluttering. Dancing. Glee. Gay. Jocund. And nary an exclamation point or smiley face in sight. Perhaps Wordsworth didn’t require exclamation points or smiley or winky faces because he had access to a wealth of words to express a kind of joy more keen and meaningful than anything you’re going to get out of seven exclamation points. Here’s the dirty little secret: you—yes you, with the seven exclamation points and 2,300 different emoticons that weep, splutter, and grin—have access to these same words. It’s called a thesaurus. In fact, you can access one on the Internet. Feeling happy, but don’t know what to say beyond, “I’m happy because I like my caterpillar sushi?” Courtesy of

Beaming, blithe, blithesome, buoyant, cheerful, cheery, gay, gladsome, lighthearted, sunny, upbeat, gleeful, jocund, jolly, jovial, laughing, merry, mirthful, smiling, beatific, ecstatic, elated, enraptured, entranced, euphoric, exhilarated, ecstatic, intoxicated, rapturous, exuberant, exultant, jubilant, rapt, rejoicing, thrilled, optimistic.

There are some gorgeous words there. In fact, I probably could have cut off well before I did because I considered my point made, but I didn’t because those words are so damn beautiful that writing them made me happy. Made me jolly, mirthful, rapt, jubilant. And did you notice “gay,” “jocund,” and “gleeful?” Maybe Wordsworth had a thesaurus of his own.

My point is not that writers are smarter than everyone else, or even that they necessarily have a more extensive vocabulary. Maybe writers are just the people who care enough about words to take the 30 seconds out of their day to look up an alternate word to the one that immediately pops into their head. Who understand the maddening effect that seven exclamation points can have on a sane, reasonable person. That it is a kind of verbal assault. And that my immediate reaction—and god help me, I know I’m a snob for this—is to mock you when I see it. I wonder how many exclamation points you’ll use when you get a new job, or meet the love of your life, or find the best burrito you’ve ever had. Because if all you’ve got to express yourself is an arsenal of exclamation points and a pack of goofy emoticons, well, life produces such incredible beauty and adventure and people and frankly you’re under-equipped to express how much it all means to you.

And you can call me an old-fashioned snob, and shoot a stinkeye emoticon in my direction, but honestly, the only put-downs that really effect me are brilliantly worded zingers and for that you’ll probably want to consult a thesaurus. And maybe Oscar Wilde.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: