Few things fill me with a greater sense of dread than getting a message from a co-worker that says:
The greeting — short, blunt — makes me imagine that the other person is taking a deep, weary sigh before delivering a piece of awful news. I’ve made a terrible mistake in one of my stories, or I’m about to be let go, or there have been more HR complaints about me pressuring everyone to get bangs, and this is my last warning to stop, seriously.
But say I get a message from a co-worker that says:
Heartened by that sliver of punctuation, I prepare myself instead for what I believe will surely be a positive and productive conversation with a co-worker I respect (and love?). And even if they tell me that I’ve made a terrible mistake, or that I’m about to be let go, or that there have been more HR complaints about me pressuring everyone to get bangs, and this is my last warning to stop, seriously, the blow is softened by the fact that they used an exclamation point (!) and therefore I know they respect (and love?) me.
Exclamation points — as well as adding letters, like “heyyyy”, and casual repetitions, like “hihi” and “kk” — are the social lubricant of an office, cheery alterations that soften and smooth out online interactions with colleagues. And while a lot of people already do this, others seem reluctant to adopt the practice. Why? It’s so easy, and it makes such a big difference. Adding an exclamation point, or two, or 15, transforms whatever you’re writing, by making it sound enthusiastic and fun. Similarly, omitting an exclamation point also transforms whatever you’re writing, by making it sound like you hate your co-worker’s guts.
“Thanks!” reads as: Thank you.
“Thanks” reads as: Whatever.
“Good job!” reads as: Good job.
“Good job” reads as: Congratulations, you’ve accomplished the bare minimum of what we pay you for.
“Okay!” reads as: I understand.
“Okay” reads as: Why don’t you crawl into a cave and die?
Do you see the difference?
In my opinion, online work interactions should read like you’ve just funneled 32 ounces of cold brew and are trying to subtly but enthusiastically convert your colleagues to the fun new religion that Craig, your spin-class instructor, recently started in his mom’s garage in New Jersey.
Think “Hi!!” and “Great job!!” and “Craig says if you accept Gravtron as your SkyDaddy now, your jumpsuit can be any color you want!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Yes, this tone is fake, and rather infantilizing, but really, most work norms are. We have cakes for our co-workers’ birthdays; managers have their calendars organized and color-coded by harried assistants like they’re overscheduled middle-schoolers; we learn to sandwich criticisms between compliments to shield each other’s soft, fragile egos; and as soon as there’s free food, everyone suddenly, collectively regresses to the deranged, sugar-crazed, 8-year-old version of themselves. We are, all of us, office babies, and exclamation points are the written equivalent of child-proof bumper guards — a soft piece of punctuational padding that protects our emotional fontanelles from the sharp edges of conversations.
In conclusion, use even more exclamation points please!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thank you for reading!!!