F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “Cut out all those exclamation marks. An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own joke.” This is good advice for powerful, clean prose in a novel, but Sweet ol’ Fitzy would have drowned in the modern email office environment. Liz in accounts payable would have thought him brusque. John from management would have talked to him about his “rude” emails. And it would have nothing to do with the actual content of his messages. No, his aversion to that happy little piece of punctuation would be his doom.
The exclamation point has become as necessary to a work email as a smile is to a friendly conversation. To illustrate, I’ve outlined a brief translation guide for what happens when you remove it from an office email.
Meaning: Thank you.
Meaning: Thanks for nothing. You were not helpful at all.
“Have a nice weekend!”
Meaning: Have a nice weekend.
“Have a nice weekend.”
Meaning: Have a nice weekend or whatever.
Meaning: Yes, you’re right, our coworker Jim is great.
Meaning: I don’t like Jim.
Meaning: The content of this email is going to be negative. Probably a reprimand for something you did wrong or a request for you to work over the weekend. I’m only saying “hey” as a way of easing into this bad email.
“It was my pleasure!”
Meaning: It was my pleasure.
“It was my pleasure.”
Meaning: SO glad I got to help out on this AMAZING project. Thank you SO much for giving me the privilege of doing your work for you. SUCH a blessing. By the way, I’m being sarcastic.
“Talk to you soon!”
Meaning: I don’t know when the next time we speak will be, but hopefully soon.
“Talk to you soon.”
Meaning: I will definitely be talking to you very soon about something very specific and very bad.
“Have a great vacation!”
Meaning: Enjoy your well-deserved time off.
“Have a great vacation.”
Meaning: Enjoy your time off, if you’re the type of sociopath that can enjoy himself while he knows that others are doing his work for him.
“You’re the best!”
Meaning: Thanks for doing me that favor. You are a great co-worker.
“You’re the best.”
Meaning: I’m in love with you. But we’re co-workers and you’re married to that prick Tom, so I’m just going to keep saying things like “you’re the best” and “what would I do without you?” and hope you can feel the intense burn of my silent love.
“Don’t eat too much turkey over Thanksgiving!”
Meaning: Have a great Thanksgiving and I’ll see you after the long weekend, friend.
“Don’t eat too much turkey over Thanksgiving”
Meaning: You. Are. Fat.
Meaning: Don’t feel bad about your mistake. It’s no big deal.
Meaning: Don’t feel bad about your mistake. I’m on such a heavy dose of prescription meds that worry is not an emotion I am capable of feeling anymore.
“I was just thinking about you!”
Meaning: What a coincidence you sent this email. I was just about to ask you a question about this project.
“I was just thinking about you.”
Meaning: I just finished masturbating to you in the men’s room.
“The holiday photos of your family are adorable!”
Meaning: You have a great family.
“The holiday photos of your family are adorable.”
Meaning: I am going to murder your family.
Meaning: This is easy for me to take care of and I’m happy to help.
Meaning: Of course this is a problem. You know how fucking busy I am? And now I’ve got to take on some of your shit? And if work weren’t enough, Mary and I are having trouble again, as I told you at happy hour the other night. And yet you still dump this bullshit on my plate. I have a right mind to punch you in that fat, puffy face of yours, you inconsiderate fuck. But no, I’ll just sit here in my cube, eat shit, and say nothing, just like I do every fucking day. NO PROBLEM AT ALL.
As you can see, the exclamation point is a crucial piece of punctuation, so restrain from using it at your own risk. I’ve accepted that like the fist bump, this annoying affectation is here to stay. I’d like to make a stand, to refuse to use it, but then Liz in accounts payable wouldn’t like me anymore. And she makes great cookies. They’re the best!
Matteson Perry’s first book will be published by Scribner in 2016. He sometimes uses Twitter.