Barbara Corcoran: Overusing 1 Pesky Piece of Punctuation in Emails Completely Destroys Your Credibility

Want to be taken seriously? Time to scrutinize your work emails and make some changes.

Barbara Corcoran used to get 800 emails to her work inbox a day. Thanks to masterful delegation and her brilliant auto-reply, she’s got it down to a handful.

But no one can avoid email entirely. Sending and receiving gobs of email is just part of modern life. So if you want to be taken seriously, the real estate mogul and Shark Tank entrepreneur has some advice.

Punctuate your emails more appropriately.

Corcoran wants people to chill out on the exclamation points. Seriously. Are you really that excited about everything? There’s a time and place to express exuberance. It’s unlikely that your one-paragraph business email needs 15 exclamation points.

“Exclamation points have gone crazy!” Corcoran recently said on her podcast, Business Unusual. She’s noticed the trend is especially prevalent among young women, many whom place an exclamation point after almost every single sentence. “I can’t stand it.”

You come off as less professional.

An email littered with too many !!!!!!!s is more than just annoying. Being too heavy-handed with the shift+1 key is a red flag in business emails. If you use them too much, they lose their effect.

According to Corcoran, exclamation point overload reflects badly on the sender’s professionalism. She sees it as a sign of insecurity because you’re trying too hard to please. “She’s certainly not someone I want to do business with,” she says.

Does this mean you should scrub exclamation points entirely from every email going forward? No. But you can start to use them more intentionally and less frequently. There are three instances when it makes sense to exclaim.

1. To genuinely show excitement and gratitude. Are you really excited about something? This is the reason the exclamation point was invented. It’s certainly OK to congratulate someone for a big accomplishment or acknowledge exciting news, punctuated by an exclamation point! And remember, ending your emails with a simple “Thanks!” will vastly improve your response rate.

2. To come off as friendly and sincere. Your opening is a natural place to drop in a nice, friendly “Hi there!” or “Hope you had a good weekend!” But keep it concise, and quickly get to your point. No one wants to read a novel-length email.

3. When you’re asking for a favor. Sometimes we need to ask people to do things they probably don’t want to do. Ration your exclamation points for these times, because it’s when you’ll really need them. “Thanks in advance, I appreciate it!”

Exercise restraint.

Before you send your next email, take a moment and scan for exclamation points. Are you overdoing it? Could you cut down on a few?

If it feels too curt to remove every single one, try implementing a “one exclamation point per email” rule. This will force you to make that sole exclamation point really count. And if you’re emailing Barbara Corcoran, she’ll take you more seriously.

By Betsy Mikel Owner, Aveck

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