Do Women Overuse Exclamation Points?

Peer Advice & Teaching Tips
Reading Time: < 1 minute

They sure do! But a Wall Street Journal article (She’s Not Mad. She’s Just Not Using Exclamation Points) says women are expected to use more exclamation points, and they face a dilemma:

Male bosses who write in blunt, terse prose aren’t noticed much. Plenty of management research has shown, though, that women bosses tread a thin line. Too few softeners like exclamation points, and they’re viewed as hard and unfeeling; too many, and they lack gravitas.

The authors of a Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication article conclude that the exclamation point isn’t as much a “marker of excitability,” as former research claims, but is more about “friendly interaction.” They also found that 73% of exclamations were made by women and 26% by men.

This Wall Street Journal video shows three female executives talking about their own use of exclamation points. Barbara Corcoran, of Shark Tank fame, says women use the mark partly because they want to please others, while men, particularly senior-level men, “don’t even bother to put a period at the end.”

Advice varies, but for business communication, you might use the mark sparingly. Corcoran says she assumes women who use a lot of exclamation points are insecure and know they are unlikely to get what they ask.

But for friendly communications, one or two are okay. Corcoran also suggests, as does a previous WSJ article, that exclamation marks may be appreciated by people who report to you.

Class Discussion Questions

  •     Considering what you just read, how do you use exclamation points?
  •     Have you noticed a difference between how men and women use the mark?
  •     Will this article change how you use the question mark?