DePaul University Career Center's Blog

Email Etiquette: When & How to Use Exclamation Points

By: Gracie Covarrubias, DePaul University organizational and multicultural communication major ’18 and Career Center communications assistant

Email etiquette can often make or break your professional presence in the workplace. Most standard guidelines can be found on the Internet or taught in the classroom. However, there are still unwritten rules to uncover. Among the unwritten is when to utilize exclamation points. The exclamation point itself is a powerful force in punctuation and must therefore be used with great caution.

Here’s our guide to mastering exclamation points in the workplace:

1. Go ahead, give opening and closing salutations an energetic tone

Many people will kick off an email with an energetic greeting such as, Good Morning! And, similarly, will close with a, Have a great day! Both of these salutations are common and are minimally distracting to the reader.

2. Show appropriate enthusiasm in response to affirmations or congratulatory statements

There are some points in an email when not using an exclamation point may come off as rude. For example, if a coworker or boss shares exciting news with the team, a Congrats! message comes off as genuine enthusiasm as opposed to, Congrats, which makes it appear as though you aren’t excited about something truly noteworthy.

3. Stray away from double, triple, quadruple (you get the idea) exclamation points

There are no exceptions to this rule. Double exclamation points mean double the trouble. Trust us on this one, just don’t do it.

4. When in doubt, let the other person lead

Just as in the art of conversation, you are expected to match the tone of the person you are speaking with; the same goes in email conversations. Make the effort to match the tone of the email that is being sent your way. For example, if you receive the email message, Thank you for the coffee! An appropriate response would be, You’re welcome!

5. Ration your exclamation points in general

If you’re new to a professional workplace and still trying gage the enthusiasm levels of your colleagues, it’s best to air on the side of caution. ASK Associate Director Leslie Chamberlain suggests following the “once a year rule.” Leslie shared, “When crafting your email, imagine that you are allowed one exclamation point for the entire calendar year. Then ask yourself, is this exclamation that monumentally necessary?”

Emails are tricky, and with the ever-changing social norms it is a daily challenge to keep up with the times. We hope this guide will serve as a staple in your exclamation point usage endeavors. At the end of the day, keep these tips in mind, but remember to trust your instincts. No one knows your workplace better than you.

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