Only One, Please
In the classic movie, The Hunt for Red October, Captain Marko Ramius (Sean Connery) orders his second-in-command, Vasili Borodin (Sam Neill) to sound the sonar one time, and one time only, in a signal to the commander of a United States submarine, Bart Mancuso (Scott Glenn). Captain Ramius says, quite calmly, "Give me a ping, Vasili, one ping only please."
Whether you have seen the movie or not, think of that quote when you are writing an email, essay, cover letter, or thank you note during an application for a teaching job. In fact, remember this quote when you are doing any type of writing. Except, substitute "exclamation point" for "ping."
"Give me an exclamation point, Vasili, one exclamation point only please."
While school administrators want to see your passion to be a teacher, your writing never needs more than one exclamation point per sentence!!! One exclamation point indicates passion as effectively as two or three or four or five or ... you get the idea. Would you use multiple question marks??? Multiple apostrophes '''??? Looks sloppy and unprofessional, don't you think? Yes, it does!
Let me add one more statute to the one exclamation point only rule. Use exclamation points sparingly. Like anything that is overused, exclamation marks used after multiple sentences lose all value in your writing. If every sentence you write concludes with an exclamation point, how will I know what sentence is really the most passionate one? Let's put some exclamation points in a thank-you letter:
Thank you for much for the interview yesterday! I am hopeful that my qualifications match what you are seeking! My student teaching experiences have prepared me to meet the needs of your students and to be a trusted colleague with the other professionals in your school! If you have any questions, please let me know! I look forward to hearing from you!!!!
What do you think an administrator would think of getting a letter like this? I find the constant exclamation points distracting and wonder, "How will this potential teacher write to parents and students? Will anyone take this person seriously?"
Use the exclamation point for when you want to emphasize a specific sentence, not an entire paragraph. Most of your sentences will end with a period. Use the power of language to make your point, not a juvenile use of an often-abused punctuation mark.
I see exclamation points most abused in emails and cover letters. Use one or two exclamation points, if any, in one page of writing. You are writing professional documents, not a screenplay or a Twitter tweet. Write like a professional and put a period at the end. Occasionally, and only occasionally, break out the exclamation point.
Now go out and get that teaching job!
By John Snyder
Associate Director, Office of Career Education and Development
Slippery Rock University of PA