The use of the exclamation mark in writing is generally discouraged. In my experience, an exclamation mark in academic writing is perceived of as frivolous. My husband says he was taught to use one in every ten thousand words. The late Terry Pratchett is attributed to have said “Five exclamation marks, the sure sign of an insane mind.”
I have previously blogged on Signs of Danger, where a single exclamation mark is a recognisable symbol – a hazard warning.
In this post, I’ve selected several photographs taken over a period of seven years which feature exclamation marks. I started selecting them after photographing two separate examples of signage seen during the London lockdown which made me think about how we register mood and intent through handwriting and punctuation.
The image below features a chemist shop window which also reflects the nearby buildings, cars and passersby. The handwritten sign with its forward leaning capitals and three exclamation marks conveys energy, optimism and excitement. The writer of the sign seems thrilled to have thermometers and there’s an assumption that the person viewing the sign will be as appreciative:
The other statement that stuck in my mind was this graffiti added to a sign on Hampstead Heath. It shares the similarity of being written in black felt tip, but these oversized capitals look as if they’ve been written quickly with an eruption of nervous energy. I can sense the fear, anger and frustration behind the words, even though there is only one exclamation mark:
Next are some images that predate the Coronavirus pandemic. The handwritten text in the sign below, seen in the window of a convenience store in New York’s Lower East Side, employs the rhetorical device of repetition with the addition of multiple exclamation marks to get their point across:
I think the multiple exclamation marks on the sticker below confirm the intensity of feeling behind the message. Seen in New Orleans, 2018:
A section of a whiteboard placed in Camden which gave people an opportunity to express their wishes also conveys intensity of feeling in its “STOP Abusing women!!!!” comment. It is a free for all so presumably the desire for More Pokemon! should not be dismissed either:
Ibiza has the reputation of being a hippy clubby party town so I was surprised when i saw this sticker in adulation of the late dictator Franco. I like the double inverted exclamation marks at the start of the phrase:
The sticker, presumably placed by nationalists, contrasts with the banner on the facade of a building in Ibiza Town welcoming refugees:
Next from back in 2014, vitriolic graffiti and exclamation marks aimed at the then Prime Minister and Secretary of State:
And finally a spin on a motivational quote, attributed to the late American comedian George Carlin, painted on the boot of a car. Seen in London in 2013:
Also published on Medium.