20 February 2008

Just Say No to Exclamation Points

Note to self: Avoid exclamation points! Or rather, avoid exclamation points. I have decided that this seemingly innocuous punctuation mark is evil.

The other day, right after the big beef recall, Rick and I were watching the news reports about the inhumane treatment of the cattle, and the station we were watching flashed large letters across the screen reading: "POSSIBLE CONTAMINATION!" The use of the exclamation point seemed manipulative; it made the news feel more like propaganda than news, and we were both turned off. I suppose that news companies are trying every which way they can to grab their share of the market; I just wish they could do it without exclamation points. Don't exclamation points convey a touch too much emotional energy to have a place in objective journalism?

A day or two later, I was making my to-do list, which is, as usual, way too long for one mere mortal. Good thing I am actually a superhero; according to Lola, I am ElastaGirl (from The Incredibles). I wish. After creating a list that is so large I can actually roll it up and use it to beat myself over the head and into unconsciousness, I sat there in a state of shock looking at it and slowly realizing that unless I change my mind about the ethical implications of cloning, I'm never getting through this list.

Then I noticed the exclamation points. I had added these little babies to the items that were most pressing, or that seemed the most daunting. The effect? Each one of those little points increased my anxiety level about ten-fold. It was like the list I had written was yelling at me. It sucks to get yelled at by a piece of paper you have created yourself.

Each time I looked at an item with an exclamation point, my heart raced a teensy bit and the little screws on each side of my head turned an eentsy bit. Before I knew it, I was furiously scribbling out the exclamation points, taking aim at their insistent little shapes, and ripping holes in my list as I did so.

I rewrote the list, sans exclamation points. Somehow, I felt more confident looking at a list that said: "Reschedule Sam's dentist appointment" rather than "Reschedule Sam's dentist appointment!!" So there was one small source of pressure I was able to remove from my day.

I wish I could figure out how to neutralize all those other anxiety-producing experiences in my life; if I could figure that out, market it, sell it and make millions, I could cross out that pesky "work for a living" item on my to-do list.

3 comments:

Robinella said...

I'm guilty of leaving comments with many !!!'s. I don't know why I feel the urge to leave them everywhere. Even as I touch the key, I think, is this necessary? Why yes it is, I reply!!

But I understand what you mean and I love the way it was written. :-)

Jettie said...

i too am guilty :(
We watched the same news as our school is one on the list that uses it and as a beef farmer i felt terrible for them cattle.They never on the farm use those shocking things or anything to hurt them ever!! pretty sad it was.


notice no marks!! oopps

nicole said...

Take a photo of your list next time...sounds like a fun blog post.
Did you get the bag I left at your door?