A junior employee, 24, once convinced herself that she was going to lose her job because her boss used a period at the end of her reply “That’s fine.” after the employee told her boss she was not feeling well and asked if she could work from home.
“The period kind of stared me in the face and told me that my career had just ended,” the junior staff said. “I called my boyfriend and I was like, ‘This is it. I just lost my job.’ ”
Overreactions and high anxiety are seeping into the workplace because employees struggle to interpret responses by supervisors that either do or do not include exclamation marks, according to an August article in The Wall Street Journal.
In another example, an employee was both nervous and concerned after their male boss didn’t include an exclamation mark in his response. “ ‘You’re not your normal, cheery, bubbly self,’ ” the female employee said. “ ‘You’re not using exclamation points.’ ” She then told him she felt his emails came off as being more demanding than usual.
Years of rampant use have both diluted the punctuation mark’s meaning and inflated its significance, WSJ writes, citing the above examples.
Years ago, Elaine brought up the use of exclamation marks in a classic Seinfeld episode where she debated her boyfriend about its use. Eventually, the boyfriend walked out on her because she insisted they must be used often.
WSJ chalks up the increasing concern about exclamation marks to the trend of using emojis when texting friends or colleagues.
Additionally, a 2016 study of 126 undergraduates by Binghamton University-State University of New York found that ending sentences with periods in a text was interpreted as abrupt and insincere.
Because email and texts have become substitutes for spoken conversation, people started using punctuation for emphasis and tone instead of just as a way to mark the end of a sentence, according to Dr. Celia Klin, a professor of psychology who researches psycholinguistics and co-authored the study, WSJ reports.