Do you suffer from bangorrhea?
Bangorrhea is well-known to many writers and literary critics as the growing hyper use of exclamation marks. A recent post from Beth Dunn at Hubspot, “Do You Really Need That Exclamation Point?” offers understanding and treatment suggestions for the bangorrhea that may plague your prose.
Like Dunn, many professional writers feel that our exclamation exploitation is nearing critical mass. In response to this grammatical epidemic, two Boston Globe writers (Martha Brockenbrough and Christopher Muther) went so far as to add a new ‘grammedical’ definition to bangorrhea which describes this chronic condition. One of the definitions the Urban Dictionary gives for bangorrhea is:
“Overusing exclamation points in a vain and failing attempt to make your writing sound more exciting. Trying to put more bang into your prose, but looking instead like you have exclamation point diarrhea.”
Overuse is not a new problem. The exclamation point is widely considered to be the most exploited, abused, overused, and misused punctuation mark in the entire English language. (Isn’t that worth exclaiming?) Dunn believes it’s because we have become habitually lazy writers. Instead of carefully choosing words that excite or invoke emotion, we take the easy road and end our mundane writing with our favorite little faker.
The English author, Lynn Truss, provides some insight into the origin and overuse of the exclamation point in her book Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Guide to Punctuation. First introduced into English printing in the 15th century, it was termed a “note of admiration” until the mid-17th century. Even after it was added to the English printing manual, the exclamation point did not appear as a typewriter key until the 1970’s. Prior to that time if you wanted to type an exclamation mark, you had to type a full stop using a vertical line, then back space and type a period. Famous writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald didn’t approve of the use of exclamation points. He gave the following advice, “Cut out all those exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own jokes.”
Referring back to Beth Dunn’s post, rather than simply railing against the abuse she helps us further by providing a light-hearted, common sense Q & A flowchart and concludes her post with an eBook punctuation reference guide. After chuckling through her cleverly structured flowchart and scrolling down to the eBook, you see this:
According to Dunn’s flowchart, Hubspot’s use of the exclamation mark must be:
A. An exclamation like Hey! Whoa! Oops! or Wow!
B. An exclamation that must be shouted.
C. It’s an emergency.
D. It’s hugely important.
E. None of the above.
It could be considered ‘hugely important’ to Hubspot although maybe not to you as the reader. If the answer is ‘none of the above’ then perhaps even Hubspot suffers from a touch of bangorrhea. What do you think?