The Friendly Period.

The Friendly Period

An initial test model, circa 2010.

An open letter to the person in charge of new punctuation:

I have invented a new punctuation mark, and I am writing to ask you to consider introducing its usage into the American Punctuation Lexicon.

I would also like to check up on the status of the interrobang (also known as the quesclamation mark). You may not remember it, but it was the combination exclamation point/question mark invented by ad executive Martin Spekter to help us with such sentences as “WHAT did you just say to me?!” and “Lindsay Lohan’s suing WHO?! Over WHAT?!”

The interrobang, in punctuation limbo since 1962.

The fact that it was invented in 1962 and you’re still considering it doesn’t give me much hope for it, or for that matter, for the Irony Mark, or “Snark,” – the backwards question mark that some are hoping can indicate sarcasm in our increasingly digital world. I think it sounds like a great idea. Whoever thought of it is a genius.

But onto my idea.  Get ready for it: The Friendly Period (exclamation point!)

Sorry. What I meant was, the friendly period! Period.

Am I talking about an era of increased kindness? No. A new, more pleasant brand of menses? No. (We already swim, ride horses on the beach and run through fields of daisies – how much more pleasant can menstruation get?)

No, I’m talking about a period that says, “That sentence, the one right before me, is as affable as they come. That sentence, in fact, wants to buy you a beer.”

Here’s the problem: increasingly, we’re using very cold, technological ways to communicate. No one wants to actually go through the long, drawn-out process saying hello and how are you on the phone, or, god forbid, having to see someone in person. There are germs in every handshake, and people get bad haircuts that you have to lie about. So emails and texts have become, for many, our primary means of communication. But reading something on a screen makes everything colder, so we try to warm up our communications with annoying emoticons, or, in my case, the gratuitous exclamation point.

In a study entitled “Gender and the Use of Exclamation Points in Computer Mediated Communication,” (for reals!) Carol Waseleski (exclamation point!) deciphered that woman use exclamation points 45% more often than men in e-communication.  But it’s not because we’re more excited than men. Women use exclamation points online as indicators of a “friendly interaction.” We’ve been socialized to try to make people feel comfortable and to keep the peace. Hence sentences like, “Bill, I can’t wait to see the 4th quarter EMBO Report on the new 12-gauge ball bearings!”

She’s not excited to see that report. No one is excited to see that report. She’s letting Bill know that she’s not angry that it’s late yet. When she’s angry, she’ll use a period.

I used to abhor exclamation points, largely because I am not a perky person. I am a person who assumes a day is going to blow until the world convinces me otherwise in the first five minutes by handing me a 16-ounce skim half-caf mocha in bed, which never happens, so you do the math.

So you can imagine my increased usage of exclamation points is extremely disconcerting both for me and for those who are forced to endure my emails and texts.

A sample sentence from a recent email:

“Yay! Dinner at McFuddernutters sounds great!”

In this case, the exclamation points are preventive. Because the person receiving the email knows that I can be a sarcastic bitch, periods would have made it read:

“Yay. Dinner at McFuddernutters sounds great. I just hope their neverending salad bowl will fill the bottomless pit of despair I feel because I’m sitting in an establishment called McFuddernutters.”

Now, what you might say is, “Hey, why don’t you stop being a sarcastic bitch (interrobang?)” Good exclamated question. Answer: because I don’t want to, friendly period!

The friendly period is here to solve all our communication problems.

Picture this: a larger, slightly squished period that’s big enough to see that there’s a half-moon of a smile three quarters of the way down its jolly round body. It’s simple, it’s not nearly as annoying as those bright yellow happy faces, and it’s stylish. Because what’s more stylish than black and white? Nothing, stupid. (Friendly period!)

I implore you, punctuation person…don’t make us wait 48 years for the friendly period to take off (friendly period.) We need help now in getting rid of the scourge of gratuitous exclamation points, and I, for one, would have significantly less punctuation shame in my life.

Please get back to me at your earliest convenience (friendly period.) Our future depends on it (irony mark.)

Courtenay Hameister


17 thoughts on “The Friendly Period.

  1. Oh this is one of my most fave articles EVER. I’m really digging the interrobang and my GOD how I loathe the exclamation point, especially when used like this!!!!

    • Yeah, it could also be a black and white hamburger. Definitely needs work, but then I’m not a designer. Maybe a designer will take up the cause. It’s a noble one. Death to exclamation points, beyond 5th grade love notes and, y’know, exclamations.

  2. Zomg!!! That’s so true!!!

    I really do hate all the exclamation marks over the place – but there is a sense of pressure to use them: that without them, as you say, we’ll be interpreted as being sarcastic, or dull and unenthused.

    Seriously I had no idea people were actually inventing new punctuation marks – or that there exists a body to govern said marks

    – and yes, I recognise the irony in using an emoticon there.

  3. Ha! Messed that up. I put in an ironic emoticon (irony from the context, not the emoticon) and cleverly hid it from view by putting that text in angle brackets.

    I guess the site allows HTML comments…

  4. At the risk of seeming sexist, the friendly period looks very much like an Oreo cookie, which makes me very happy because Oreos lower my testosterone levels and allow me to play nice with others. I like to dunk them in milk and eat them in a very manly manner (friendly period) Regarding the interrobang, am I the only one who finds that name obscene (standard question mark)

  5. It looks like a coffee bean. I wonder if you could get some corporate backers. Not starbucks.

    or, maybe a mod oreo?

    Just don’t let those Always(tm) maxi-pad people get ahold of it. They’d rename it to Happy Period, and nobody wants to talk about THAT.

  6. The Friendly Period graphic is kind of creepy and reminds me of something entirely un-friendly hiding out, waiting, under the bed.

    Plus you’re really talking about an emoticon instead of an actual period. And that seems confusing. Periods are so small, how could you ever see a smirk?

    Plus “the guy” in charge of punctuation obviously doesn’t give a shit about suggestions or he/she would have banned TALKING IN ALL CAPS FOR IMPERTINENT COMMUNICATIONS. (Yeah, I know, it’s not really punctuation, but it should still fall under the same bureaucratic decision making body.)

    Overall, though, great!?!?!
    (that was not sarcasm there, actually. I did enjoy your post. And so I will give you a smiley with a wink. ; ) ) <— and that there is my end parenthesie(sp?).



  7. You are a wonderful writer. I just loved this post, particularly since I fought in the grammar trenches myself for years as a college freshman English teacher. I gave up that career after twenty some years to try my hand at housecleaning and blogging. I will be following you closely. But not too closely; I don’t fancy myself an EDITOR or anything…

  8. Pingback: I Want It [Wednesday] (on Thursday) « Let's eat, Grandpa! Let's eat Grandpa! (Punctuation saves lives.)

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