Email Exclamation Point Usage

19 Jan

Email-imageWhile I am not the most grammatically correct writer, I have respect for the English language and the nuances of its unique punctuation.  My style of writing is that of a first person storyteller, and I write like I talk.  This is done to envelop the reader (you) in the story.  My wife is an abstract painter, but she didn’t start that way.  She had to learn techniques and the “correct” way to paint before understanding why she was creating abstractions.  You learn the rules to understand why we break them.  Same goes for writing, I went to writing school to learn how not to write.  (You’re welcome Mom and Dad)  Many people write like they talk, and from reading emails these days…maybe more people need to learn how to talk first.  I can’t get over how much the exclamation point is overused, misused, and abused in email.  Not everything in email needs an exclamation point.  Not everything is “LOL!!!”  Not everything is being shouted.  Not everything is an interjection.

Let’s start with defining what an exclamation point is:

The exclamation mark or exclamation point is a punctuation mark usually used after an interjection or exclamation to indicate strong feelings or high volume (shouting), and often marks the end of a sentence. Example: “Watch out!” Similarly, a bare exclamation mark (with nothing before or after) is often used in warning signs.


Seems pretty straight forward.  However, this definition goes out the window in email most likely to our old familiar friend and persistent pet peeve of mine: The Online Disinhibition Effect.  People say and do things online they would not do in person because they are lacking the face-to-face time required for true social contact.  While I have found this to be most prevalent in the comment sections of online sports articles, it shows its ugly head in everyday email through the overuse of the exclamation point.  Here is an example from a recent email conversation at work:

Me: When you get a moment, could you please send over the files from this morning’s meeting?

Them: OK!!!

Me: Are you okay?

Them: Yes!

Me: Okay, let me know if you need anything.

Them: OK!!!!!

Following this conversation I went to the person I was emailing with to see why they were shouting and if they were upset.  They were not.  From their perspective they were just replying casually.  From my perspective it seemed like the person was agitated.  This is classic.

When you add exclamation points to sentences…it makes them read differently!  Understand?!!!  That was an emphatic interrobang by the way.  Its a fun party word.  Look it up.  While you’re at it, make sure you’re not one of the people adding to the email exclamation point epidemic.  Type how you talk by talking out what you type, i.e. read your email aloud as you’ve written it and amend before sending.  If something really requires 3+ exclamation points, perhaps the phone would be a better option.


Did you enjoy this post? If so please “like” it, share it, add a comment, and subscribe via email or RSS if you haven’t already at Thanks for reading!

My Sister and the Special Ketchup

8 Jan

1980 Gates WichitaAt about age 5, I went with my mother and sister to run some errands at a store in Wichita called Gessler’s.  I loved going to Gessler’s.  They had a massive candy section, toys, and all kinds of gadgets to explore.  Most important (this was a different time period) was that we had a house account, meaning I could load up on candy and toss it on the account.  Well…the lady at the counter would always shoot me a look and say, “Ryan Gates…would your mother approve of all this candy?!”  Then she’d work out what she thought my mother would approve of and send me on my way.  On this particular day my sister and mother were going as well so there was an outside chance that if I threw a temper tantrum in the front aisle I might be able to get a new toy to shut me up.  The game was afoot!

348sAlas, my mom had a plan.  She pulled up next door at Nu Way, a restaurant known for their crumbly old-fashioned burgers and root beer floats.  She dropped me and my sister Lindsey off and told us she would be back in half hour to pick us up.  She gave Lindsey (who was about 10) money, and put her in charge.  “Rooooooot beeeeeeer floooooat!”  I sounded off like a hungry fog horn.  Lindsey looked to Mom, Mom nodded, and off we went.  “Make sure he eats some real food too!”  My mother exclaimed as she walked into Gessler’s next door.

2011-09-22 18.59.26I sat at the counter and immediately began spinning on the stool as the waitress in a 50’s skirt walked up to us and asked how we were doing and called me “Shoog” or “Hon” or something of that nature.  I sounded, “I’ll have a rooooot beeeeeer flooooat!”  My feet dangled above the black and white checkerboard floor with anticipation and excitement!  “Anything for you Hon?”  The waitress asked my sister.  Lindsey ordered up a float of her own and two burgers…one for her and one for me.  I gave Lindsey the stink-eye.  “I don’t want a burger!”  I insisted.  Lindsey shot back at me in her best angsty pre-teen voice, “Mom said you have to eat real food so you have to eat a burger.”  I shot her a look.  She dead-panned me and chewed her gum.  I replied, “Fine!  Order it!  But I’m not going to eat it!”  Lindsey continued chewing her gum and very nonchalantly replied, “Fine…but then you won’t get to try the special ketchup.”

Special ketchup?  Wait…no one said anything about special ketchup!  I mean, I LOOOVE regular ketchup so special ketchup must be…well…special!  I must try this special ketchup!

“There’s no such thing as special ketchup!”  I exclaimed.  Lindsey looked surprised.  “Wait, are you telling me Mom has never let you have the special ketchup?”  All of a sudden my world was busted open…not only was there some kind of special ketchup in the world but my mother was keeping it from me!  “No I’ve never had the special ketchup!  Do they have it here?”  Lindsey smiled and leaned in closer, “Of course they do…every restaurant has special ketchup, you’re just too young to eat it.”  This angered me, “No I’m not!  I’m five!”  The waitress brought over our root beer floats, “Here you go kids, those burgers will be right up.”  Suddenly I didn’t care about the frothy amazingness in a frozen glass sitting before me with a mound of ice cream balancing on top.  “Where is the special ketchup?”  I asked Lindsey.  She pondered a minute as if to ask herself if I was ready to be brought into a secret society, then she reached into the condiment caddy and extracted the special ketchup.  It didn’t look so special.  I had seen it before in other restaurants and been told I wouldn’t like it…but no one had ever told me it was special ketchup.  It was red, like ketchup.  It came in a bottle like ketchup…but this bottle was much smaller than the ketchup bottle.  Much smaller.  Much, much smaller.  My eyes grew wide!

1-4“Why is it so small?”  I asked.  Lindsey replied without thinking, “Because it’s so good.”  She handed me the tiny glass bottle and I tried to sound out the words on the label.  “T.”  There was definitely a “T.”  “Tab…tab…tabsco…tabsco?”  My sister took the bottle from me, “Tabasco…and you are probably still too young to try it.”  The fish-hook was now embedded in my cheek.  “Let me try it!  Just a little!  Quick…before Mom gets back!”  At that moment in time two burgers were placed in front of us by our waitress…it was special ketchup time!  As soon as the waitress left Lindsey popped the top bun of my burger off and started pouring the special tabsco ketchup all over it.  She grinned to me, “If you are going to have special ketchup, you might as well have a bunch!”  This was sound logic and we mutually decided to empty a second bottle onto my burger.

After the fourth bottle I could no longer contain my excitement and needed to eat that burger!  “Here,” said Lindsey.  “Let me hold it for you.”  She held the burger up to my face.  Special tabsco ketchup oozed over every inch of the bun as she smiled and urged me to eat.  I went in for a taste and the burger was taken back.  “No.”  Lindsey said.  “You don’t taste special ketchup…you take as big a bite as you can!”  How could you argue with that?  I opened my mouth as far as it would go, possibly even unhinging my jaw, to make room for the pile of ground beef and special tabsco ketchup.  As I took the largest bite I could, I saw my sister’s smile turned slightly evil.

When my mother came to retrieve us I was in tears while clutching a large plastic cup of ice water which I would periodically sip through a straw.  The waitress was consoling me while Lindsey stared off into space with a look of glee as she devoured her burger.  The waitress informed my mother of what had happened while Lindsey strolled outside and climbed into the front seat of my mother’s car.  A few minutes later my mother and I came out with a new burger and a root beer float to go.  I opened the passenger door where Linz was sitting.  She motioned with her right thumb over her shoulder that the back seat was where I was going.  I climbed in and whimpered.  We drove home in silence.

Back home I ate my burger and drank my float as the fire in my mouth subsided.  Lindsey was sent to her room at the front of the hall.  I’m not sure the conversation that transpired between them but I think Lindsey won.  Soon after, I got my hands on one of her Barbie dolls and pulled the head off.  Lindsey gave me a wicked Indian burn, I decked her, and we were both sent to our rooms.  I pounded my fists on the floor in anger till I heard my sister’s voice…soft and distant.  “Rye?  Ry-boo?  You okay?”  Her voice was coming from the air vent in the floor, our main channel of communication when grounded.  “Yeah.”  I whimpered back.  “Check your door knob.”  Lindsey whispered.  I went to my door where a piece of string was looped around the knob and then went back down the hall to Lindsey’s door, on the bottom loop of the string sat a Crayola Crayon box, and there was Lindsey cranking the string like a cable car – sending the crayon box to my room.  This was our second form of communication when grounded.  The box arrived at my door knob.  I opened the lid and found a folded up piece of paper inside.  I unfolded the paper to reveal my sister’s epic apology:


I looked down the hall at my sister.  Lindsey smiled and shrugged.  I smiled back at her…and that was that.

Years later Lindsey shoved a kid to the ground that was bullying me.  In middle school she’d come over from the high school to have lunch with me.  When I got into a fight with a few kids after school she pinned the leader against his locker and asked if he wanted a fist sandwich.  She gave me my first beer.  She taught me how to sing.  She taught me how to be myself.  She taught me how to not get caught smoking.  She gave me my first CD in a world of tape decks…Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and the Violent Femmes.  She gave me her car.  She held my hand when she went in for surgery from Crohn’s Disease.  She was my first call when I got expelled from high school senior year.  She helped me get my first job in New York.  She gave me a place to crash anytime I needed it.  She made me the “Man of Honor” in her wedding.  She let me help take care of her baby, Jake, when he was a newborn and she needed someone to watch him while she went to work.  She called me when turmoil hit her life and I drove 8 hours through the night to be with her for a few hours before needing to drive 8 hours back to be at work.  She let me teach Jake (now 10) how to swim to the bottom of the lake and touch the rocks at 12 feet deep.

2014-04-21 13.54.42She is the best sister a guy could ask for.  She is an amazing aunt and a powerful example to my boys about the kind of people would should all strive to be.  She is an amazing wife to her husband David.  She is a phenomenal mother to her son Jake.  She is a wonderful daughter to our parents.  She is smart, she is gorgeous, and she is so talented it astounds me every time I see her on stage or on-screen.  She is my sister, and today is her birthday.  I’m in Wichita today and she is in New York…which bums me out.  However, I’ll be having lunch at Nu Way today and I will be sure to put tons of special ketchup on my burger.  I’ll sit on the same stool from 30 years ago.  I’ll have a rooooooot beeeeeer floooooat in her honor.  I’ll miss her…greatly.

I love you Lindsey.  Happy birthday darling.


Did you enjoy this post? If so please “like” it, share it, add a comment, and subscribe via email or RSS if you haven’t already at Thanks for reading!

So Long 2014!

2 Jan

Its been a heck of a year filled with up and downs…as life should be.  So Long Freedom began 2014 with a post entitled “Parenting On A Plane,” a look at some of the rules we created for our then 2-year-old (Max) and ways to enforce them.  Max was on the verge of turning 3 and we had no idea that the “Terrible Threes” would put the “Terrible Twos” to shame.  Dodge was 10 months old and referred to as “The Octopus” because he grabbed everything within his reach…seemingly with a multitude of arms.  Time moved forward and the blog marched on.  I adjusted to being Midwestern, my sister got married and landed a role on NBC’s “The Blacklist,” Dodge began using baby sign language, one of my music videos won a few awards, and Max turned 3.  Max turned 3!  Wasn’t it yesterday I posted a sonogram photo of him on here as this journey began?  Dodge learned to walk just before his first birthday, I co-founded an arts organization with my wife and great friend, my beloved Wichita State Shockers went undefeated in the regular season, Max began throwing temper tantrums, and Kate and I instigated the “Good Behavior Chart.”  Max discovered the freedom of playing alone outside, Dodge ate dirt, I finally identified with Wichita as my home, my anxiety got substantially better, the boys took their first bike ride, we adopted and rescued an ornate box turtle, and we returned an ornate box turtle to the wild when we realized they are a terrible pet and it is against the law to “rescue” them.  Max rode a horse for the first time, Dodge started biting, Max got bit by Dodge a few times, Dodge started talking, Max started playing with Dodge by the pool, and Dodge learned that he doesn’t float.  Dodge switched to a forward facing car seat, Max got a booster seat for the car, we vacationed on Lake George, and Dodge learned again that he doesn’t float.  My dad’s best friend and surrogate uncle to me passed away…I love you Ali, thank you for reading with me in your final days on Earth – reminding me there are things bigger than my understanding of the world.  A few weeks later my grandma Dawn passed away…goodnight Grandma, I love you now and always and will always think of you when I have pancakes.  My pear tree had a bumper crop year, I hit my mid 30’s, Max and Dodge saw their first movie in a movie theater, the boys started roughhousing, Dodge started daycare, and Kate rediscovered what its like to not have 2 kids clinging to you all day long.  I made a hand-developed black & white Super 8mm film in under 24 hours as part of a film race which was selected to the Tallgrass Film Festival where it won the audience award for its showcase.  I lost Max in a crowd.  I found Max.  I cried.  I voted in the midterm elections, Harvester Arts found great success, and my 9-year-old nephew (Jake) humbled me when he wrote a Thanksgiving essay at school about how he was thankful for me, his Uncle Boo Boo.  Max got his first haircut in a salon, I lost my bacon, I got new bacon, and lest we forget from the Lay’s Salt & Vinegar Chips letters…don’t come between me and my food.

Max's Christmas Croup

Max’s Christmas Croup

…and that’s just what happened on this site.  Max got croup on Christmas, Uncle Mark brought out the best in our family over the holidays, and our best friends bought a house 4 blocks from our house…3 minute walk…amazing!  In 3 weeks Max turns 4 years old.  That little schmoop!  He’s turning 4!!!  Max is fully potty trained and sleeping in a twin bed…across the room is another twin bed where Dodge sleeps, and he’s started asking to use the potty on his own in the past few weeks.  Dodge turns 2 years old in 2 months.  My nephew turned 10!  There are 2 major milestone birthdays coming up in my family but that’s not my place to say…never discuss age and politics, right?  Yesterday the company I work for nearly tripled in size and I was humbled to be asked to move up in to a senior director position, something I have been working towards for the past few years.  Our cat is dying…not today, but probably this year.  Luna is 17 and time has simply caught up with her, Kate and I are doing everything we can to make her happy and comfortable.  Both boys will be in school, work schedules look to be insane, and 2015 is looking like the year our little family turns the corner and finds our own identity with each other.  Its been a great year…and 2015 has potential to be even better.  Through it all, the best moments of 2014 were the ones I’ve shared with my loved ones…the simple things.  Oddly, the highlight of the year was my grandmother Dawn’s passing.  Her passing was a relief because I know she was in pain and it eases my soul to know that pain is gone.  It simply was her time and she left behind a great legacy and a life too funny and complex to ever fit into a blog.  Her passing allowed me one last trip to Lake George where I was able to visit my favorite spot, feel the sun on my back one more time, feel the water on my toes, the air in my hair, and say goodbye.  Not just to her, but to the lake…which always feels like home, but Wichita IS my home.  I dove down deep in the water and retrieved a stone from under the Commission Island buoy.  It is mossy.  It is orange.  It is my little slice of home.  When I feel lonely or sad I hold this stone and I can remember EXACTLY how I felt that sunny day…Sunday, August 3rd…sun on my back, water on my toes, and wind in my hair.  It is the moment I will always think of when I look back on this year.  It is the nexus of all the events of the year.

So long 2014.

Me and Grandma, 1980.

Me and Grandma, 1980.

Did you enjoy this post? If so please “like” it, share it, add a comment, and subscribe via email or RSS if you haven’t already at Thanks for reading!

Follow Up To Stolen UPS Package

18 Dec

All is right with the world…Oscar’s Smokehouse sent a new shipment of bacon, sausages, pancakes, and more after my first shipment (via UPS) was stolen off my porch!  For the full story, click HERE.


Did you enjoy this post? If so please “like” it, share it, add a comment, and subscribe via email or RSS if you haven’t already at Thanks for reading!

Stolen UPS Package in Wichita, KS

15 Dec

In case you missed it over the weekend, we had a UPS package stolen from our porch on Friday.  The package was full of sweet, wonderful delicious bacon.  This is a crime of opportunity on the rise and it has arrived in Wichita.  Following my post, “The Grinch Who Stole Bacon,” KWCH Channel 12 News asked to interview me and ran the following piece as the lead story on Friday:


Criminals Stealing Packages Off Doorsteps
by Scott Evans

We’re approaching the busiest time of the year for shipping companies. If you haven’t already seen the packages on your doorstep, that will change as we get closer to the holidays.

“With it being the holiday season it seems like people are out looking for easy crimes like this,” said Ryan Gates.

Gates is talking about someone stealing a package right off his doorstep. Thursday sometime between 5:30 and 6:30pm, someone stole the package full of bacon and sausage and cheddar cheese and pancakes.

The gift from a smokehouse in upstate New York was worth about $100.

“I don’t think they had any clue what was inside the box, but this time of year, you could be picking up something from an electronic store that could be worth a lot of money, you could be picking up clothing or in my case you could be picking up sweet, wonderful delicious bacon,” said Gates.

Gates has never had this happen before, and those living in the area were also surprised.

“We’ve just never had an issue with it and in this neighborhood neighbors really look out for each other and keep an eye out,” said Joy Marlin who doesn’t live far from Gates.

“We’ve had stuff left out overnight and it’s been fine. I’m an Amazon junky, so I have stuff shipped all the time,” said Nicole Long.

Delivery companies usually deliver items during business hours, but it’s through these daylight hours and really right at dusk that these criminals can strike.

“Obviously I’m upset with the people that did this, but I’m more upset with UPS for just leaving a package on the front doorstep,” said Gates.

He’s reached out to UPS and was told to contact the shipper, but didn’t or couldn’t provide more help than that.

The smokehouse that sent the meat agreed to send a replacement at no cost. This time, Gates says he’ll have it shipped to his office.

And that’s one of the suggestions police have, if you know you won’t be home, work with the shipper to deliver it to your work or to a neighbor. If that doesn’t work, talk to a neighbor and have them keep an eye out for it.

For expensive items, it might be worth it to pay for signature confirmation.

For the full story and video, click here.

News3All bacon puns and hamfoolery aside, it is a serious crime that luckily for me turned out to only be perishable goods from Oscar’s Smokehouse in Warrensburg, NY.  However, criminals across the United States have been targeting UPS trucks…following their routes and looking to see what packages get left on doorsteps when no one is home.  What if it had been electronics?  A gift for the boys from a relative?  A part for a car?  Any of the things we now shop for online instead of conventional location-based shopping.  Online shopping has become the norm and shipping has not evolved with it.  Seriously, who leaves a package outside…in the rain…with the description written on the outside?

Amazon is trying to launch drones that fly to your house and deliver goods, but that still relies on you being home at the time of delivery.  With the lack of restrictions on drones it is only a matter of time before criminals design pirate drones to attack Amazon’s drones and steal your goods right off your porch…or maybe even in the skies.  It could be all out drone warfare in the skies with your new FitBit’s fate in the balance.  Oh the humanity!

The real solution here is that UPS (also FedEx and USPS) need a better system for delivery when you are not home.  Not every shipper is going to pay for signature required, but a little common sense goes a long way for the delivery driver, and with this crime growing more and more by the day…doing nothing is not a solution.  In the meantime (i.e. the foreseeable future) here are some tips on what you can do to avoid becoming a victim of this crime:

  • Talk to your UPS, FedEx, and Post Office Delivery reps about what to do in the event you are not home to receive a package.
  • Talk to your neighbors and ask them to keep a look out for packages when you are not home.
  • Designate a hidden area for packages to go when delivered – if possible make it lockable.
  • Any deliveries you schedule, have delivered to your office or when you know you are home.
  • Tell relatives to send packages to your office (if possible) instead of your home.
  • Install a camera on your porch that records movement.
  • Report suspicious activity to your police department’s non-emergency number.

As for me?  I ensured all packages were being delivered to my office moving forward but I can’t control what friends and family do.  My camera is secretly watching, though I suspect there is nothing left to see.  I have made sure the exterior of my house is locked up and secure.  I have contacted my delivery companies and drivers.  Last, but certainly not least, I have designed a simple trap.  Nothing crazy…but if you decide to steal from me again you are in for a surprise that will have me laughing for a while!  Happy Holidays!!!


Did you enjoy this post? If so please “like” it, share it, add a comment, and subscribe via email or RSS if you haven’t already at Thanks for reading!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,034 other followers

%d bloggers like this: