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O bloody period!


A friend of mine is bothered by the absence of a standard English punctuation mark that captures something in the emotional spectrum between the matter of fact period and what one might call the “sincere exclamation point.”

Example of the latter:

Thanks for pulling me out of that burning bus!

It troubles him that we also have to make do with what might be termed the hyper-inflationary exclamation point, i.e., thanks for getting me a copy of that memo!

Shouldn’t, he wonders, there be something in between? (I suppose internet emoticons are a manifestation of this urge, but you can’t put a blinking smiley face in formal written texts — not yet anyway, LOL!)

Are there languages that have gradations between the stern “.” and the effusive “!” ?

And what would a good intermediate punctuation mark look like?

. . . does the Japanese “neh” perform something like this function?

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  • Hanspeter

    You are so right !!!1!!!eleventy!!!

  • scythia

    I think I might have an idea!!!!

  • Red_cted

    Well, there’s always the elipsis…

    • Lee Rudolph

      More specifically (as in your example), the ellipsis of aposiopesis, which indicates that the sentence has ended before the thought that it expresses, rather than the more common ellipsis of omission. That almost captures what I think is wanted, but not quite—to really work there’d have to be some hint that the thought is meant to end with mild excitement. Hmm…

      • Ken

        It suddenly occurs to me..!

      • Red_cted

        To channel a TBogg infatuation…

        Shakira lifted her leg over the amplifier and…

        So desu ne?

      • Dave

        That’s very Age of Sensibility… Still, it worked for them…

  • S Physicist

    I’d guess you just have to make it happen with words. What I do know, though, is that the title of this post is quite misleading.

    • efgoldman

      …the title of this post is quite misleading.

      Not in England, it isn’t.

      • Warren Terra

        Indeed, I had the same response. Pip pip!

        • Thom

          In England, it would be a bloody full stop.

          • blowback

            There was me thinking that Paul Campos was writing on wimmin’s issues!

            • BlueLoom


      • Dana

        It gets even more complicated when you consider that the British quite means something like the opposite of the American quite, so that “quite misleading” means not really misleading at all.

        • ptl

          In British, “quite misleading” means somewhat misleading.

    • ChrisTS


  • ♫♬♪♩

    • efgoldman

      I’m with you!!!!!

      Let’s see….
      A little JSBach for a period.
      Then gradations of emphasis up to Mahler # 3 (opening), #6 (last movement), or # 8 (opening.)
      Almost any Sousa march could serve as the ellipsis.
      And the last 32 bars or so of Beethoven’s 9th as a definitive, exclamatory paragraph ender.

        • LeftWingFox

          Am I wrong to read that as a Bronx Cheer?

          • Origami Isopod

            Maybe we need a punctuation mark for that too. I mean, why not.

  • Hanspeter

    You can always co-opt some of these (although they already have specific meanings)




  • Manju

    Myra had the baby.

  • Wrye

    Kind of? “Ne” is a tag used for emphasis/agreement, like many other words, such as the Canadian “Eh”. But while tags like “right” “Eh” “Innt” “Nicht Var” and so on are vocalized, punctuation marks aren’t.

    • in re vocalized punctuation: See, or rather hear, Victor Borge’s Phonetic Punctuation.

    • Alex

      Wouldn’t “yo” be closer? It expresses force and sincerity but not necessarily the excitement of an exclamation point.

      • Rocky Balboa

        It’s the same in English, yo.

    • In ancient Greek it is/was “ge” or γε (thats gamma-epsilon, in case the characters didn’t translate (you never can tell)).

      IIRC we called that part of speech an “emphatic particle” which I always rather liked.

      No clue if that holds for modern Greek as well.

  • Warren Terra

    Seems like a job for the interrobang. It’s not a mark we use in English, and golly it’s a fun word to say.

    Alternately, the sincere emphasis could appropriate the exclamation mark, and the ironic emphasis could be relegated to the interrobang.

  • Dave

    We’ve got one. It’s the exclamation mark. If someone pulls you from a burning bus, send them a card.

  • LeeEsq

    We can always use the word love to demonstrate sincerity. Ex. “Thanks for pulling me out of the burning bus, love.”

  • Leeds man

    Fucking language. How does it work.

    • wjts

      Colorless green ideas, how do they sleep?

      • LeftWingFox

        What is the melting point of the number seven?

        • firefall


      • Jordan

        Furiously. They sleep furiously.

        • ChrisTS

          We don’t sleep, in fact. Trust us.

          • Jordan

            You know who else doesn’t sleep?

            • The Pinkertons.

            • Gregor Sansa

              That’s classified information.

  • LeftWingFox

    How about a bullet point?

    Thanks for the email•

    Elevated, slightly enthusiastic, but still a period•

    • So much violence…

      • LeftWingFox

        Ah… hmmm.

        It does give new meaning to the phrase “punctuated by gunfire” I guess.

        • S. Holmes

          • • •••
          • • • • •
          ••• • • •••
          • • • •

          • El Guapo

            IS that a picture of the ship in Yar’s Revenge?

  • CaptBackslap

    There was a book in the late 90s called Metapunctuation that introduced hundreds of ridiculous punctuation marks in the service of sentences like “that’s not a raccoon, it’s some sort of giant spider[rising fear]”

    It was fun, in a humor-book-about-punctuation kind of way.

    • ChrisTS

      But such an expansive genre, really. How can one keep up?

  • Hogan

    I was SO SURE this was going to be a bspence post about menstruation.

    • But then you decided to go with the flow?

      • Hogan

        Such is my curse.

        • ChrisTS

          Does anyone find it odd that there are so few [actual] women on this thread?

          • Jordan

            dudes gonna dude?

    • Was thinking the same thing.

    • I have exactly 0 plans to write about menstruation. However, a post about my butchery of the English language…!

  • Wrye is right that “ne” is more for agreement, or equivalent to “…, no/right?”

    In Japanese, a more similar one would be “yo”. I’m not sure about the precise use, but in my experience it seems be used for emphasis, and can be followed by a full stop or exclamation point.

    • ichininosan

      You are right about the use of “ne,” which is mainly used to elicit nods of agreement. “yo” however, is used as “don’t you know,” when you are conveying some information that the listener was previously unaware of.

  • Royko

    Sounds like a question for the Language Log.

  • TidyCat

    re: Wrye & Jeremy – “ne” is how you ask for agreement – kono neko wa totemo kawaii desu ne? “that cat is cute, don’t you agree?” and “yo” is used for emphasis in a reply – “kono neko wa totemo kawaii desu yo!” or “kono neko wa totemo kawaii desu yo ne!”. other than Japanese punctuation/expressions lack in much the same way English does … *sigh*

  • TidyCat

    also too? the “yo” phrase should have the agreement first – either “hai!”, “eh!” or “unn” depending on formality/relationship. sorry, i’m out of practice …

  • Anonymous

    There’s no circumstance where an exclamation mark is a better choice than a period. So, there’s no intermediate step either.

    “Cut out all those exclamation marks. An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own jokes.” F. Scott Fitzgerald.

    “An exclamation mark should only be used in dialog, and then only if the speaker is being disemboweled.” Attributed to various.

  • News Nag

    Perhaps simply capitalize Meh.

  • DocAmazing

    If you grew up on Marvel Comics, you’d realize that all sentences end in an exclamation point! Life is exciting!
    (Almost all sentences, that is; who says this isn’t the Marvel Age of Punctuation?)

    • A friend of mine was a moderator on a site and in her queue was a long set of messages from two people having an argument. I got her to cut and paste into something that counted characters: 628 exclamation points.

    • dms

      Or Marvell!!!

    • wjts

      Not only should strongly-written sentences end with eye-catching exclamation points, they should also contain copious cases of attention-grabbing and awe-inspiring alliteration!

      • Lee Rudolph

        Hyphens are good too.

      • DocAmazing

        ‘Nuff said, True Believer!

    • …must…warn…others…

    • John Revolta

      If you grew up on L’il Abner, you’d realize that all sentences end in TWO exclamation points!!

    • Well, apparently for a long time the standard in the funny pages (as well as comic books) was not to use periods, as they tended to get lost at/by/with the printer/printing process.

      I used to edit a weekly email written by my boss advertising the week’s wine tastings and whatever at the little shop where I worked. The first thing I always did was to remove most of the exclamation points…especially those used multiply to end a single sentence.

  • Djur

    As an honest answer: I’ve found the dreaded :) creeping into emails with colleagues and texts with friends for exactly this purpose. Clients and suits still get !, but saying “Thanks for your help with this!” to someone who sits next to you seems fakey. “Thanks for your help with this :)” seems more genuine for some impenetrable reason.

    • The worst thing about that emoticon is the lack of a nose. Now %^D looks a lot like me, if I were two-dimensional, miniature, and lacking connective tissue.

      • Emma in Sydney

        My emoticons have noses, and they wink. ;-) I was criticised on Facebook the other day for the winking sadface, but I thought it worked well ;-( Describes middle age if you ask me.

        • You people are nuts. Noseless emoticons all the way – they’re symbols not depictions.

          • ChrisTS

            I’ve never understood the noseless ones. What sense do they make? :-{

          • Nuts, you say?


    • TribalistMeathead

      I frequently use an ellipsis instead of a smiley, because I want to send the same message a smiley would send, but I’m not a 12-year-old girl.

      • Djur

        No, an ellipsis is more “12-year-old boy who stays inside a lot”.

  • kgus

    How about !? Or maybe not?

    • kgus

      That sure looks off — it’s an exclamation point with a delete mark through it. Matbe tweo of them will show up better:


      • kgus

        Make that two of them. Hell, let’s try three:


  • ChrisTS

    At 3:27 AM, methinks Paul’s friend ought to have better things to worry about. Perhaps it will all seem different post sunrise.

  • ichininosan

    The Japanese “ne” performs the function of “isn’t that so?” “what about that?” “don’t you agree?”

    Forget about the lowly period or exclamation point, Japanese has given us an entire punctuation language in emoji ;-) desuyo

  • AcademicLurker

    Nothing conveys sincerity like ALL CAPS!

  • Consider that the ! is the victim of overuse. If you removed 90% of !s from the atmosphere, there would be no impact on meaning and we’d all be happier.

    Perhaps slightly off topic: I had two Brit friends who used the ? where one would expect an ! and they also used the !. I never asked because it seemed rude. But now I wonder if the ? was the softer ! that you’re looking for.

    • Softer, limper…it’s all the same.

    • Dave

      Ah, the classic observation of the rising interrogative tone? Where each sentence sounds like a question? And you don’t really know if they’ve caught it from an Australian? Or it’s something deeply symbolic of loss of certitude in contemporary verbal discourse?

      • No, it was being used as an exclamation point of sorts. And I’ve yet to see people who toss question marks at the end of every sentence when they speak (not the case here), add them to their writing.

  • rea

    “Plaintiff therefore respectfully requests that the Court enter and order denying defendant’s Motion for Summary Disposition and awarding plaitniff costs, including reasonable attorney fees, pursuant to MCR 2.114(E). ;)”

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