Are you killing your own credibility?

Are You Killing Your Own Credibility - Quote1Like it or not, smart punctuation matters.

I’m sure we’ve all seen the example of how commas can KILL:

(Let’s eat, Grandma vs. Let’s eat grandma = BIG difference.)

I know this is nerdy, but it’s important.

So today I’m shedding light on the ONE sneaky punctuation mark that could be killing your credibility (without you even realizing it):

The exclamation point.

I KNOW. I know. It’s fun. And energetic! And I’m not too cool to admit: I’m guilty of occasional, intentional exclamationpointitis.

(What can I say? Some things just call for extra oomph!)

But it’s time to take it down a notch. There’s no way around it:

Constantexcessive use of exclamation points makes it harder for people to take you seriously. (Tweet that!)

Think about it! It’s pretty distracting when every sentence ends with an exclamation point! In your head I probably sound like a teenager on a sugar high! Or an infomercial spokesperson yelling at you through the TV! It’s just not natural! (And may even make you question my credibility!)

See what I mean?

It’s just a little uncomfortable. And when potential dream clients come into your space, you want them to feel comfortable.

So what’s the alternative?

The way I see it, there are two painless treatments for exclamationpointitis:

Option 1. Practice moderation.

I’m not a total abolitionist. I love a good, thoughtfully used exclamation point as much as the next guy.

And I do NOT want to make you feel like you need turn down your enthusiasm. (I think that’s the root of the problem, actually – equating enthusiasm with exclamation points.)

Like with all good things – chocolate chip cookies, exercise, and Netflix…it’s about moderation. To borrow the words of Samuel Johnson:

Exclamation points, like gold and diamonds, owe their value to scarcity.

(His original quote is actually about praise…which is a rather interesting perspective.)

Option 2. Up your (communication) style game.

Punctuation marks are like accessories for your wordrobe. Choose them wisely. (Tweet that!)

Try other ways to help folks hear you before they 
hire you by making use of bold, italics, parentheses, as-you’d-say-it spellings, and such.

[FUN FACT: I created The Conversational Copy Cheat Sheet in 2013 for exactly this reason. It’s full of quick ‘n’ easy tips to write copy that sounds like YOU, and it’s totally free. If you haven’t already, click here to get your copy.]

Bottom line(s): Your enthusiasm is contagious. BEAUTIFUL. And a huge part of what your dream clients want and need to see from you.

But if you’re exclaiming all over the place when you’re not genuinely surprised, in anger, or in pain, you could be off the mark.

Let’s talk

Do you suffer from exclamationpointitis – or know “a friend” who does?

Tell me about it in the comments so I can cheer you on (with genuine yet moderately punctuated enthusiasm).

We’re in this together! (<< See what I did there? Moderation.)

To punctuating with confidence,




  1. Rachel Luna – Best Selling Author of Successful People are Full of C.R.A.P.

    Guilty as charged (I would have totally put an exclamation point after that sentence but I’m practicing moderation). I have been a chronic offender and sadly there are even times when I know I have too many exclamation points but I still leave them in there; it’s like I can’t help myself (insert my other overused expression: “lol”).

    Keep the great tips coming Nikki because I also suffer from commaitis. In just this comment alone I debated adding a few extra commas for fun.

    Which actually makes me ask, what are your suggestions for injecting emotion so that your audience knows you’re joking or extremely excited without overusing the “!” or “lol” or my favorite “BAHAHAHAHAHA?”

    Thanks so much,

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Ha! (See? We can totally still use them.)

      I was actually afraid y’all might read this and think I’m saying to tone down the enthusiasm, which is SO not the case. I HEART enthusiasm!

      And I’m all about writing as you’d speak, so if you’re laughing – a bahahaha is totally appropriate (and a personal fave of mine). This is all about YOUR personal communication style, and there’s not a black-and-white rulebook.

      I just want to make sure we’re all aware that the OVERuse of any of these can influence the cred factor, which is why moderation is key.

      If you’ve been ending most sentences with exclamation points for a while now, it’s gonna feel funky to tone it down.

      For hahas, you may find that, in most cases, folks who know you know already know that you’re joking. You don’t have to digi-laugh at yourself.

      In lots of cases it’s even FUNNIER when it’s a period instead of an exclamation point. It’s an experiment in comedic delivery :)

  2. Marsha from

    TOTALLY not what I was expecting you to say!


    I used to HATE exclamation points…until I started doing so much of my communication online. I recently wrote a post about an email I’d sent to one of my heroes. In the blog, I posted a screenshot of the actual email I sent – my GOODNESS. It was ! after almost every sentence ( if you’re interested).

    I love the idea of using more bold – I never think to use it in blog posts. Thanks!

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      So funny, Marsh – I totally wouldn’t have seen you as an overexclamationpointer. I can’t really hear you reading that email because in my brain you’re too cool for lots of exclamations. Ha!

      Charming Brits like you are exactly who I think of when I need proof that enthusiasm (and humor) can be delightfully subtle – often with even more impact.

      Fun discussion :)

  3. Debora


    I am guilty, I am so guilty I wanted to start this comment like this: “Nikki!”

    Thank you for the advice and I will pay extra attention to the over use of the exclamation point. For a while I have been thinking that I over use and when I don’t use it I feel that I come across very serious… But is it is probably all in mind own head!

    Thank you,

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      These comments are cracking me UP and making me realize that I want to end my responses with exclamation points!(!!!)

      BUT yes, Debora, just experiment to see what works for ya.

      The main point is: Use exclamation points if that’s how you’d SOUND reading your text. Tune in to your own natural style, and you can’t go wrong :)

  4. Pamela Atkins

    Nikki, I absolutely love it! (Exclamation intentionally written to denote the depth of my excitement). :-) There are others as well. Rachel mentions the comma. Then, there’s my favorite or personal pet peeve, the all mysterious Apostrophe. Folks just don’t seem to know Where to use it! As a matter of fact, I’m getting ready to release a Freebie on my site, which is related to this very thing. Thanks for “talking punctuation”. It’s not exciting but it has a huge impact on our reader’s impression of us. Have a great weekend!

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Exactly, Pamela!

      Apostrophes were a HUGE struggle with my college students. One day I’ll do a lesson on ’em in here too. Little by little, we’ll cover all the bases :)

      Happy weekend to you!

  5. Jessica Zelenko-Barrier

    This is so true. I love the point you make. As I type this comment, I’m already realizing how many exclamation points I want to use in this very moments. (AKA: Wow! This is so true! Thanks for pointing this out! You are the best!) ;) Ok. Ok. I’m going to work on that….

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Ha! Y’all are making ME want to exclaim!

      And I’ll keep saying it: Exclamation points are OKAY when they’re actually what you would use if you were SPEAKING that line.

      Just gotta practice mindful punctuation, and we’ll all be better for it :)

  6. Tonia Winchester

    OMG! I’m the queen of this disorder for sure. But to be honest my credibility is currently being ruined because I actually am on a sugar high (although not a teenager). WEEEEE!!! <– tripleexlamationpointitis inspired by this current non-naturopathic sugar high. Worse? The sugar high is to hide the hangover. Wah wah. #HighJackingPhysiology

    But I had to celebrate a big ride on the NO train stepping down from TWO naturopathic association boards yesterday.

    And here we are. A hangover-burying-sugar-high-induced-lack-of-credibility-with-extra-exclamation-points!!!!!

    (Great article Bella :)

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Goooo, Tonia! That really is exciting and I bet those NOs feel GRAND.

      Proud of you, Doc :)

      1. Tonia Winchester

        Darn it! I spelled hijacking wrong. And in front of the word nerd too!

  7. Kristy


    This post is brilliant. As a fellow word-nerd, over-zealous (and incorrect) punctuation is a frustration of mine too.

    We have a local shop who has incorrectly used an apostrophe of possession on their signage. Unfortunately, I have to drive past it most days and it bothers me so much (I know it shouldn’t…)

    A bit of humour wrapped around a serious topic- exclamationpointitis. You are a genius at your craft.

    Now, we need to figure out a way that you can format blog comments so we can use your Conversational Copy Cheat Sheet tips of bold, italics and parentheses.

    Thanks so much for sharing your gifts. xx

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Ha! YES – I’m sure there’s a way. We’re just not that advanced yet ;)

      Thanks for the note, Kristy. A note on apostrophes is in my sights!

  8. Sarah McKay

    I find few things more entertaining than misplaced commas … although “misplaced” quotation marks are also rather amusing. #nerd.

  9. Karen Taggart

    Oh my, I am so guilty of this! (Intentional exclamation)

    I even notice it sometimes and STILL leave it, because it sometimes leaves the sentence feeling a little “flat”. I also stress out over using smiley faces and wonder if they are unprofessional. But I DO smile…a lot…so that’s authentic to who I am I guess. :)

    I can’t tell you how much time was spent in law school on the importance of comma placement. In legal documents it can make a HUGE difference. It’s actually very important to make sure it’s done properly.

    I also think legal documents would be much more interesting with exclamation points and smiley faces. Along with the occasional BAHAHAHAHA!!! :)

    I love the tip to keep the exclamation point IF that is how you would say it when speaking. I’m going to keep that in mind.


    1. Karen Taggart

      Oopsie! I don’t usually place two “sometimes” in the same sentence. Darn this commenting from my phone. :(

    2. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Totally agree, counselor. I love bahahas, smileys, AND exclamations when they’re true to the essence of the message – and not added out of obligation or lack of creativity.

      I actually prefer *spelling* winky face to actually ;)-ing it, howev.

  10. Tori

    Ok, this is pretty funny. I too am afflicted but I’ve become MUCH better at showing my enthusiasm and excitement in other ways. I still feel like I need to ditch the excessive smiley faces (I’m not mad at you. I want you to know that I’m reallllly happy! :) :) :)) And still find my own voice.

    Also, my friend Bobbie calls them excitement points. Hilarious!


    PS – I don’t know if you take questions or suggestions but I’d love a blog post about how to improve copy for those of us who end up coming across as too pushy/in your face/preachy/aggressive. That’s what I am struggling with.

    PPS – Beautiful new space you have here. Love it!

  11. Lorien Raquel Waldron

    Hi Nikki,

    Thankyou for this fun and friendly reminder. I am a lover of enthusiastic spirited communication when I write posts and copy.

    I have found myself using the exclamation mark very… frequently at times (!) :), and am currently realising it is not always necessary and like you have shared, is best used sparingly, consciously and with precision, rather than all over the page. :)

    It is a easy communication ‘addiction’ when you are someone who is genuinely inspired and actually is smiling and beaming with joy inside when writing… it is so elegant to communicate the energy with other elements though – as you have said, the world of communication is full of possibilities! :) Thankyou for this post. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    x Lorien

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Love that, Lorien, and you struck a brilliant balance there ;)

  12. Shannon Cherry

    You know… I am more of an ellipsis girl myself. I tend to use it when I am tired and lazy. Silly me…

  13. Lacey

    Nikki I’m so glad you have put a name to this sickness I suffer from! I seriously put an exclamation point after every sentence. When I publish a blog post I go back through and its so painful for me as I try to delete out a few of the exclamation points. I’m a very bubbly, outgoing person and I’m always afraid nobody will know it. This article was such a good lesson for me. We can express ourselves with ENTHUSIASM without one of these (!) little guys at the end of every sentence. I really hope there is a help group out there, I’m not sure I can do it on my own! (winky face) Writing this comment took serious restraint!!! oops there I go again lol!

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Ha! No worries, Lacey – you’re off to a great (thoughtful) start ;)

Comments are closed.