Terry Pratchett claims that a person's mental stability is inversely proportional to the number of exclamation marks they use in a document. An exclamation mark is a powerful literary device. It should not be added hither and thither all over your message, as this degrades its impact, and infers that the author does not know how to use them correctly. Either that, or the author is in a state of profound and hysterical excitement. In his own words : "Multiple exclamation marks are a sure sign of someone who wears their underwear on their head. " Multiple exclamation marks are used ironically in a number of web comics, notably Jerkcity, which uses them to parody the over-zealous and cynical marketing speak of the Disney Corporation among others (#424). They are also part of the lingua franca of AOL and IRC.

(Although I should mention that an otherwise well adjusted friend of mine is guilty of using them a lot.)

British author Terry Pratchett mentions exclamation marks, and their over-zealous use, in three of his books...

"'Multiple exclamation marks,' he went on, shaking his head, 'are a sure sign of a diseased mind.'"
-- in "Eric(Faust)"

"Five exclamation marks, the sure sign of an insane mind."
-- in "Reaper Man"

"'And all those exclamation marks, you notice? Five? A sure sign of someone who wears his underpants on his head.'"
-- in "Maskerade"

He also notes in an interview about the order in which he answers his mail that he:
"stir(s) it all up and in fact answer(s) in the order:

From kids
Ones written in green ink on mauve paper
Ones with more exclamation marks than sanity dictates"

Extraneous exclamation marks. To use exclamation marks to the point that they are redundant and useless. An example of this would be:

RandomChatUser: LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Note that ONE exclamation mark would be sufficient to show that this individual is indeed, laughing out loud.. very loudly. Instead, they decided to add more exclamation marks. Now note how this condition of "extraneous exclamation marks" can actually spread to other users:

ChatUser1 enters the chat room.
ChatUser1: HELLO!!!!!!! :D :D :D
ChatUser2: HEY!!! Wuzzup?!?
ChatUser1: NOTHING!!!!! how r u?
ChatUser2: good!!
ChatUser3 enters the chat room.
ChatUser3: HEY GUYS!!!!!!!!!!!!

Notice on the entrance of ChatUser1, he/she used "extraneous exclamation marks". Then, so did ChatUser2. Even ChatUser3 was affected before he/she joined the chat room, showing that indeed, "extraneous exclamation marks" are very contagious. Let's watch another occurrence of "extraneous exclamation marks."

ChatUser1: Guess what? I went to the Ford Focus Detroit Electronic Music Fair!
ChatUser2: Dude, the Ford Focus SUCKS!!!!!
ChatUser1: Well, I only went for the music fair, anyway!!!!

Let's look at this now. "Extraneous exclamation marks" were noticably sparked by something ChatUser2 did not like, which was the Ford Focus. Then of course, we had another example of how it can spread to other users when ChatUser1 replied. Hmmm, very interesting.

So how can we prevent the use of "extraneous exclamation marks"? Well, there really is no solution. It's just another one of those problems that don't really hurt anything but are just plain annoying.

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