The power of punctuation

Years ago, more years than I care to acknowledge at this moment, I was a college student majoring in History and English. Almost every class I took required me to write, and the guidelines were the same across the different fields of study. Be descriptive without being overly flowery or excessively verbose. Write purposefully. Be mindful of connections and flow. Last but not least, do not use exclamation points. Ever.

When I landed in a pastry kitchen, my writing focused on recipes, procedures and order forms. As my position shifted from baker, to manager and eventually to owner, my writing style followed and focused more on business-related communications. The writing guidelines I learned in college remained relevant and I did my best to read and re-read every email I sent to make sure everything was concise and error-free. When in doubt, I would ask my mother for help. In true Marge fashion, she was always more than happy to play the role of a Grammatical Police Officer.

When I started my blog, I gave myself permission to loosen up and just write. If I wanted to use all caps, an exclamation point or even multiple exclamation points, I went for it and didn’t think twice. I was no longer being graded, nor was I grading myself. It was at this time that I started thinking differently about all of my communications. Writing business-related emails, I realized I felt restricted by only using periods at the end of the sentences because the emotion displayed in the sentence didn’t necessarily reflect the emotion I felt in my heart.

It’s hard to convey joy or appreciation in emails or texts by ending each sentence with a period. This tiny dot does its job, but the feeling left behind is flat, muted. I understand the turn-off of exclamation point overuse, but I have to say, I have started to crave exclamation points.

With my children away at school, I find myself reading into each text, searching for what may, or may not, be really going on beyond the texts. Are they happy? Are they thriving? Are they lonely?  ‘ I’m good ‘ feels a lot different than ‘ I’m good! ‘. What I’ve realized is that I am hanging onto every single exclamation point, breath held, chest tight, face muscles ready to exhale & smile with relief or suck in more air and wince with worry.

My father is my business partner, and in addition to talking almost daily, we also communicate via emails. Joel, a serious man of few words, writes a beautiful business email. Lengthy and almost always sent with corresponding spreadsheets, his emails are filled with details, question marks and periods. Exclamation points are rare. I will never forget when I read one of his emails and it contained a positive sentence completed with an exclamation point. My heart soared. I shared this with my father, who was probably a bit surprised that my one comment in reaction to this particular email had to do with his use of an exclamation point as opposed to any other information the email discussed. In true Joel-fashion, he made sure to include one or two exclamation points in future emails, when earned or when necessary.

The reality of communication these days is that it is written-driven as opposed to verbal. I tend to text my family and friends to see if they have time to talk instead of just calling them. The rules are shifting. As with most things in life, moderation goes a long way. No need to only use exclamation points, no need to write EVERYTHING in all caps, but no need to avoid them completely. Know that they help make your mother feel relief and your business partner feel successful. The enthusiasm conveyed in one simple punctuation mark is pretty powerful.

Wishing everyone a great day.

Scratch that.

What I meant to say was this: Wishing EVERYONE a GREAT DAY!!!


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Owner, Baker,
& Storyteller

You know that friend who has it all together? Yeah. That’s not me. What I can offer you instead are my experiences, insights, and passions. Pithy observations about making cookies. Wry commentary on running a business. Loving (if slightly sarcastic) parenting advice. And if that doesn’t interest you, I have dogs. Cute ones.

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