I spend a lot of time on the internet, and I'm not the only one.

We all know that the internet is a great resource. Where else can you pirate great literature, troll as a way of conducting psychological research, and practice international relations through chat rooms? The internet has really changed how students "engage with the intellectual and social challenges of our times."

Honestly, though, in an electronic universe, Generation Y is much more interested in talking to be heard, and in a space where we cannot easily convey tone or expression, we resort to less... professional means.

You know what I'm talking about. ;)  

For the most part, it's easy to separate the internet from professional writing. I'd rather hand write a paper with a quill and ink than turn in an academic assignment with a conglomeration of colons and capital letters. But what happens when we create something that's supposed to be professional on the internet?

Paper Chase is an all-too-guilty example of what I'm talking about. Those who first logged on after I created our "About" page and the "Welcome" post know exactly what I'm talking about - they were the ones who pointed it out to me. I used exclamation points to the point where the blog became unreadable. I was so eager to convey enthusiasm that I forgot to keep the bigger picture in mind. On the internet, we're used to short one-liners that often end in exclamation points: "That's so cute!" "Did you watch The Office last night?! It was amazing!!" "Happy Birthday!" The exclamation point has emerged from his cave of grammatical banishment, and he's plotting his revenge.

"Oh, no!" you cry. "What can we do to stop his global takeover?"

Stop screaming at the internet.

We can hear you on the other end, we promise.

Don't let exclamation points become second nature.

There are definitely social web sites where you're expected to use exclamation points. You should either "dare to be different" and use exclamation points with the scarcity that your English teachers have always encouraged, or make a very clear mental distinction about that web site being one of the few domains where exclamation points are welcome.

Let people know when they're going overboard.

When I first got feedback about the exclamation points on the blog, I only wished that I'd heard sooner. The only way to know that something needs to be fixed is to know that there's a problem in the first place.

As our parents, professors, and employers create their own Facebook accounts, students need to double check themselves. Many people escape into the internet to abandon public expectations (4chan, anyone?), but you'll do greater favors for yourself by standing up and being one of the few white knights in an increasingly casual universe. A typo-free email earns greater praise than a cat macro in the real world - which we're all a part of, whether we like it or not.


Savannah Sharp is a senior at Agnes Scott College. She is majoring in English Literature and is a tutor at the Writing Center. She plans to complete her degree in December and attend graduate school for English Literature in the fall of 2010.

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