Exclamation invasion

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Advice | Ask Annie 

Dear Annie: My brother recently told me that my sister-in-law (his wife) was anxious about an upcoming family lunch we’d both be at because she thought I was mad at her. The reason? I’d responded to one of her texts with “Thanks,” followed by a period. She thought because I didn’t use an exclamation point or emoji, I was being passive-aggressive. We cleared it up and are fine now (though it still bothers me a little bit that she went straight to assuming the worst).

At work, I’ve also noticed this trend toward exclamation points being the norm. A young woman started a few months ago. She is very sweet and upbeat — but in every email she sends, she uses about five exclamation points. Sometimes she ends a sentence with two or three of them.

It seems to be contagious because I’ve noticed exclamation points working their way into other co-workers’ emails with greater frequency. I am hoping by sticking to my guns and only using periods and commas, I can prevent an all-out exclamation invasion.

What do you think? Are exclamation points overused these days, or am I being a grumpy old lady? — Punctuation Problems

Dear Punctuation Problems: Exclamation points have become commonplace, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. For all the convenience of emails and texts, there is one major drawback: They lack tone. This is the problem that emojis and exclamation points seek to solve. I think they’re successful in that.

Still, I commend you for your de-exclamation efforts. They shouldn’t be compulsory. If people take your punctuation as a personal offense, then they’ve got too much time on their hands.

Dear Annie: This is regarding “Parents at Crossroads,” the couple whose adult son had depression and was living at home and refused to get a job. My son, now 23, was diagnosed with major depressive disorder at age 8. He was hospitalized for a suicide attempt several months later. He’s had one other involuntary hospitalization since then, and I long ago lost count of the number of ER visits and police calls. At 23, he still lives at home.

I, however, have set some firm rules. To live at home he must take his medication each day. We use a weekly pill container to ensure compliance. He must attend counseling, and he had to list me as a person the office could give information to, so I could call to be sure he actually went. He has to either be working or going to college or training programs. I’ve also let him know failure to do those three things will result in not only his removal from our home but a report as a danger to himself or others if necessary, to ensure his safety.

Now he is in college, and it is slow going. He also works. It’s not easy some days. I, too, suffer from major depressive disorder as well as PTSD. So I understand the feeling of wanting to give up. But I’ve always made sure my son knows he is loved and the depression is not his fault and nothing to be ashamed of. And the rules and the routine help him every day, he says. — Carrie

Dear Carrie: Thank you so much for sharing your story. You offer a model of how to support a family member while maintaining healthy boundaries and enforcing expectations.

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