How is language evolving on the internet? In this series on internet linguistics, Gretchen McCulloch breaks down the latest innovations in online communication.

People have been using multiple exclamation marks for emphasis since before we started having strong feelings about things on the internet.

omg that's amazing!!!!!

More advanced variants include "omg!!!!1!!11!!" (so excited you forgot to hold down the shift key) and "omg!!!1!eleventy!!1!" (deliberate parody of people who are so excited they forgot to hold down the shift key).

But there's an interesting new trend arising in the world of multiple exclamation marks: some people have started putting multiple exclamation marks between individual words. This style creates a digital tone of voice that's a combination of multiple exclamation marks!!!! and Deliberately. Stopping. Between. Every. Word.

Here's an example of how it works, from a Tumblr post:

IF YOU ARE COSPLAYING A DISNEY PRINCESS AND YOU ARE GOING SOMEWHERE WHERE THERE ARE GOING TO BE KIDS THAT WILL COME UP TO TALK TO YOU

YOU!!!! CAN!!!! NOT!!!! BE!!!! ANTI!!!! SOCIAL!!!! TO!!!! THEM!!!!

The effect, especially combined with all-caps, is like grabbing your interlocutor by the shirtfront and giving them a shake with every word you shout—certainly not something you want to do all the time, but very effective in limited quantities.

A variant involves repetition of multiple question marks or the same emoji (often a hand-clap) between each word. For example, this popular Tumblr post by cat-pun:


There are a few precursors to the current trend of exclamation marks between words: Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha! is the name of a real town in Quebec (it's located, naturally, on the River Ha! Ha!, which flows from the Lake Ha! Ha!).

And there are several examples of escalating quantities of exclamation marks. One is a now-obsolete acronym cited in Wired Style:

S!MT!!OE!!! - standing for "Sets! My teeth!! On edge!!!"

Another example is from the novel Thud! by Terry Pratchett, as might be expected from a writer who has strong feelings about the appropriateness of multiple exclamation marks:

It goes 'baa!' It is a sheep! [...] That! Is!! Not!!! My!!!! COW!!!!!

And the line "THIS! IS! SPARTA!!!" from the movie 300 is sometimes written with escalating exclamation marks.

But the newer examples don't tend to escalate: they use the same number of exclamation marks (often three or four) between every single word.

IF!!!! YOU!!!! TRY!!!! THIS!!!! BE!!!! CAREFUL!!!!