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I've always been taught that exclamation marks in body, header or even any other text, is jarring to users, however, I'm not too sure why that is, if it is in the first place. I'm not talking about error messages or popups, I'm talking about exclamation marks in any form of text that will usually be in a body (or header) of text such as:

Upon logging in the user gets: Welcome back John Doe!

Is this notion correct? If so, why?

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I believe this is purely a matter of style (and there's some cultural aspect in play here as well - in some countries they are more common than in others).

No doubt exclamation marks can be useful and appropriate in many cases, but they tend to lose their effect if used frequently; most style guides are firm on using them sparingly. Here're a few references:

From Writing with Style, John Trimble:

Exclamation points - "screamers" in newspaper parlance - are generally ill-advised... since they're cheapened by writers given to cuteness, exaggeration, and melodramatic effects, they have bad odor among serious readers.

From Collins Wordpower Punctuation, Graham King:

Today the exclamation mark is hardly known for witty usage. It is discouraged, if not banned, by modern newspapers (where it is referred to as a 'startler', 'gasper', 'screamer', and by tabloid sub-editors as a 'dog's dick')

From Penguin Guide to Punctuation:

... you should generally avoid using exclamation marks in your formal writing... Don't use an exclamation mark unless you're certain it's necessary - and never use two or three of them in a row

And to quote H W Fowler's:

Excessive use of exclamation marks in expository prose is a certain indication of an unpractised writer or of one who wants to add a spurious dash of sensation to something unsensational. Always think twice before using an exclamation mark, and think twenty times before using it in multiples.

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Exclamation points are appropriate for, well, exclamations: statements of excitement, fear, etc. When you are tempted to put an exclamation point in your text, ask yourself: "Would shouting be the appropriate tone of voice for this sentence?" If the answer is yes, then an exclamation point is warranted. Otherwise: no way!

"Welcome back, John Doe!" is surely not appropriate. Imagine someone shouting every time they saw you.

On the other hand, if your site has statements like "Here comes another grizzly bear!" Then, by all means, go ahead.

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  • I mean, Welcome back, John Doe could be a statement of excitement, especially after someone logs in again.
    – UXerUIer
    Sep 10, 2014 at 16:48
  • I have to somewhat disagree. I have a number of excitable friends who greet me with exclamations. An exclamation adds a certain excitement and personality to the statement which can be jarring to some users but pleasing to others. There is somewhat of a trend with apps taking on more of a personality if you will. Ultimately I'd say if you want to be safe, go with a period. Sep 10, 2014 at 17:58
  • @SethG, I think it would be appropriate if you were quoting one of your friends: "Welcome back, SethG!" Otherwise, not so much. Sep 11, 2014 at 4:32

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