Be honest. Doesn’t the exclamation mark look like a middle finger there? Sorry, it wasn’t intentional, but that’s what happens when you use lurid punctuation.
Welcome to National Punctuation Day.
And on this very auspicious occasion, please allow me to relate a cautionary tale. One that involves the misuse of the little marks with the great big job.
Waiting to deposit a check at the drive-thru I glimpsed a sign in the window. ‘Earn this rate of return,’ it advertised. A second, more deliberate look showed a laughable 1.55%! on a 39-month Certificate of Deposit. Me? I wouldn’t have had the cojones to advertise that. It reads like a punch line. Or a scam. Or a Candid Camera bit.
How do advertisers get away with it? Excellent question, class. That 1.55% is not supposed to register or sink in on a conscious level. And it usually doesn’t. We’re blinded by the exclamation point! It’s strategically and purposely deployed to befog and distract the very susceptible mind of the average consumer. On its own, 1.55% is a meaningless collection of numbers. Add the exclamation and, whoa, 1.55%! represents a bonanza in the dull, listless eyes of John Q. Public.
Am I kidding? Does this stuff really work? Yep.
People don’t think, details give us a headache, and we have no attention span. Something shiny catches our eye and, wheee, our minds wander away. Besides, what’s the difference? It’s a number; one’s the same as another. And they’re all confusing — who has the energy to figure them out? An exclamation point, though, woo — that’s big and exciting and easy to understand. We’re gonna be rich. What’s a Certificate of Deposit?
So where does the fault lie? Well, you’re a grown-up, draw your own conclusions. Just bear in mind, there’s a reason for obnoxious, perky punctuation and it isn’t to clarify!
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