Ivory Tower Style
Stylish Punctuation

You can learn a lot about someone from their punctuation. A lack of periods announces a poorly organized mind. A properly employed semicolon or dash suggests a subtle dignity. But nothing exudes tackiness like the exclamation point.

The exclamation point is the dullard’s last gasping plea for attention – a 141st character admission that the sentence itself conveys no information worth the fare. It has all the eloquence of a piñata.

Unfortunately, the exclamation point is spreading like venereal disease in a retirement home. It doesn’t even require a fresh host sentence to reproduce. Often I see a whole colony of them huddled together at the end of some meaningless phrase. After all, how does one compete with someone whose having a “great time!” if not by having a “great time!!!”? It’s only a matter of time before exclamation points start appearing in the middle of sentences or even as entire paragraphs unto themselves.

The proliferation of the exclamation point is a symptom of our broader social malady: packaging suffocating product. Grocery stores stock aisle after aisle of empty calories wrapped in slogan-stamped plastic. Universities that used to offer an education now peddle diplomas and spring fling concerts.

Style in clothing suffers from a similar incontinence. Bright colors and baubles are the exclamation points of menswear. In the best of all worlds, they might be used sparingly to indicate intent or mood. But they are cheapened through overuse. Today, after another bumper crop, their price is at an all-time low. We have gone from “I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled” to “Look at my striped shirt!”

The next time you end a sentence with an exclamation point, imagine a period in its place. If your sentence withers, no quantity of exclamation points can save it. The same is true for “statements” in clothing. What if you didn’t wear your skull-and-crossbones tie clip? Does the whole thing look wrong? Then start over. Use punctuation to organize the substance of what you are trying to say, rather than to camouflage the fact that you really have nothing to say at all.

  1. dieblumendesbosen reblogged this from michaelmcghee
  2. hohenangst reblogged this from ivorytowerstyle and added:
    An outfit worthy of an exclamation point. (Image: Daniele Tamagni) A good lesson in both writing and style.
  3. gobytheshadow reblogged this from rabmessina
  4. thingsdannylikes reblogged this from ivorytowerstyle and added:
    To paraphrase Scott Fitzgerald, Using an exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.
  5. larsdevore reblogged this from ivorytowerstyle and added:
    True that.
  6. 9tailors reblogged this from ivorytowerstyle
  7. headstonesandheadboards reblogged this from ivorytowerstyle
  8. joshuareith reblogged this from ivorytowerstyle and added:
    ! must say that though ! apprec!ate a level of tack!ness in my l!fe, ! also apprec!ate qual!ty snark when ! read !t.
  9. thevulturesteeth reblogged this from ivorytowerstyle and added:
    Reblogging for the notion that semicolons suggest a subtle dignity. In which case, I am the subtlest of dignitaries....
  10. neonbender reblogged this from ivorytowerstyle
  11. hardlyahipster reblogged this from ivorytowerstyle
  12. sashu reblogged this from ivorytowerstyle and added:
    #menswear and punctuation. I couldn’t be happier.
  13. eternalacademic reblogged this from emilygullickson
  14. vingtcinq25 reblogged this from ivorytowerstyle
  15. miscellanyetcetera reblogged this from txwatson and added:
    “Please shut the fuck up and stop taking yourself so seriously,” he exclaimed.
  16. prepinflux reblogged this from ivorytowerstyle
  17. chromiumantimony reblogged this from ivorytowerstyle
  18. txwatson reblogged this from ivorytowerstyle and added:
    Bullshit. I don’t object to your criticism of the exclamation point, but I do — strongly — object to your suggestion...