Friday, October 19, 2007

The Use of Exclamation Points in Press Releases

My father tells the story of coming across a preacher's handwritten outline where the preacher had made notations to himself in the margins. One such note said, "Weak point - shout loud." I laughed when I first heard my father tell this anecdote. But over the years I have found that in my own life, and among people in general, there is a tendency for all of us to shout when we feel our arguments may be weak. When we sense weakness in our arguments, or when we expect someone to challenge us, or when we make an appeal and are so vested in the outcome that impartial or objective thinking is impossible - we tend to shout our arguments verbally. The equivalent of shouting what we write is the use of the exclamation point.

This week, the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Board of Trustees issued a statement in support of Drs. Paige and Dorothy Patterson. Professional writers will tell you that when an institution releases a public press statement, exclamation points should be avoided at all costs. Take a moment and read the White House press statements this past week. If you were to take the time to go back through the past year you would not find one exclamation point.

In the public press release issued by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary there were three statements with exclamation points.

We cannot conceive how anyone can be any more open and honest than is Dr. Patterson!

A contribution given to SWBTS is a wise investment in God’s kingdom work!

Our Baptist forbearers were wise to set up the trustee system that Southern Baptists have in place. It works extremely well!

The trustees may feel all the above about their President and First Lady, financial gifts to Southwestern, and their role as trustees of the institution, but it would be wise to present their feelings without exlamation or overstatement. Why?

(1). Recent experiences at the North American Mission Board, the Baptist General Convention of Arizona, and other Baptist instutions and agencies show us that sometimes the trustee system can fail Southern Baptists - especially if trustees lose sight of their impartial and objective role of oversight and accountability.

(2). The public proclamation that trustees cannot conceive of anyone more 'open' and 'honest' than their President is unwise. Besides the obvious that every trustee ought to conceive of Christ as more open and honest, a Messiah-like acceptance of the character of their President places them in a very awkward position when it comes time to ask hard questions. Read carefully: I am not saying the President of SWBTS is not open and honest - I am saying that trustees of SWBTS should refrain from making such statements as long as they sit in a role of fiduciary accountability and institutional oversight. Something like: 'The office of President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary demands integrity and we, the trustees of SWBTS, demand complete openness and honesty from our President. We have no reason to believe that our President has not met our expectations.'

(3). A student at Southwestern in the late 1990's, named Paul B., took another portion of this week's Statement of Support, simply changed the names and wrote:

"We believe that the incessant public attacks on Dr. and Mrs. Russell Dilday and other Baptist leaders of late are harmful to our mission of reaching the world with the Gospel. What the world, both Christians and non-Christians, sees is not Christ-like. Indeed, some of the actions are contrary to what the Bible teaches"

Southern Baptists would do well to remember that our institutions belong to the people of the Southern Baptist Convention. The cooperative ministries of 45,000 Southern Baptist Churches are not the personal kingdoms of individuals. Those ministries, whether they be the mission boards, the seminaries, or any other agency involved in kingdom work belong to the people.

Trustees would do well to remember that the Southern Baptist people are watching. We are interested in kingdom work. We are interested in reaching people for Christ. We are interested in our SBC institutions being governed by impartial, objective Southern Baptists who serve as trustees of the Southern Baptist Convention at large. We are not interested in favoritism, cronyism, or protectionism of personal kingdoms.

We are all better off when we leave out the exclamation points.

In His Grace,



Bob Cleveland said...


God has a way of putting exclamation marks on those statements of man, that He wants. And it's usually for statements made without them.

Charles R said...

Essayist Lewis Thomas said it well:

Exclamation points are the most irritating of all. Look! they say, look at what I just said! How amazing is my thought! It is like being forced to watch someone else's small child jumping up and down crazily in the center of the living room shouting to attract attention. If a sentence really has something of importance to say, something quite remarkable, it doesn't need a mark to point it out. And if it is really, after all, a banal sentence needing more zing, the exclamation point simply emphasizes its banality!

Chaucer said...


greg.w.h said...

You left off the emoticon, Ben.

Greg Harvey

Jack Maddox said...

ok Wade, I have been out of the blog thing for a while now, and really have no intention of getting back in, however, I do enjoy reading yours. Let me get this are taking issue with the use of explanation points in a press release. All I can say is that it’s about time. Wade, I thank God for you and yours who tirelessly hold our denominational leader’s feet to the fire, especially in the unnecessary use of needless explanation points and other unneeded punctuation . God bless you sir!!!!!

ps - I knew that the acceptance of extra biblical requirements by the bot's of our SBC institutions placed upon our Southern Baptist people would lead to the slippery slope of needless explanation points...what’s next, unnecessary hyphens and semi colons? THE HORROR!

Charles R said...

Jack's post reminds me of the title of a book I saw recently:

Adventures in Missing the Point

Dave Miller said...

I once heard someone say that each writer should be given 5 exclamation points when they begin to write. Once those are used up, they have to stop using them.

It is just as annoying as people using all capital letters to yell on paper, as "unnecessary" quotation marks, and all emoticons ever invented.

Paige Patterson reminds me of King David. When David wanted to build the temple, God told him that he had been a man of war, a man of blood, and it would be his son, his successor, who would build the temple.

I appreciate the wars that Paige fought on behalf of the SBC. I am glad that I don't have to warn young seminary students about the doctrines they may encounter at the schools. I appreciate that he took a stand, devised a plan, and carried it out to lead the conservative resurgence in the SBC. For all of that, Paige Patterson has my gratitude and respect.

But, it is hard for the men of war to lead in times of peace.

I hope that the next generation of leaders will have the wisdom of Solomon. I hope that they will be allowed to rise to their positions quickly.

Thank you, Dr. Patterson, for all you have done. Now, the best thing you could do is enable Solomon to take your place.

(Sorry for all the regal imagery - I know SBC leaders are not royalty) said...


As the Lord is my witness, I said before I posted this article that someone within the first ten comments would miss the principle of what I was saying by focusing only on my questioning of the use of exclamation points and miss the very thing those exlamation points represent. I knew this would happen because the tendency of some within the SBC, good people to be sure (just like you), is to so focus on the literal the principle meaning of the text is missed.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Wade, before I read your last comment, I was thinking the same thing as I was reading your post. Prophets or common sense? I'll let the people decide....:)

Debbie Kaufman said...

But, it is hard for the men of war to lead in times of peace.

It's hard for men of war to promote and be happy in times of peace.

DL said...

I heard somewhere that true greatness doesn't need defended. It just is.

Jack Maddox said...

Come on guys...surely you know I understand the point that Wade is trying to make...I did not JUST fall of the turnip truck. IN the same way you accuse me of missing your point I am pretty sure you have missed mine... Ben COle the only one allowed to have a bad sence of humor : )

Jack said...


"Surely you know I understand the point Wade is trying to make?"

Humor me Jack. Tell me what you understand about my post in terms of the point I was attempting to get across. If you really do understand it, I will apologize for missing your humor.



Jack Maddox said...

No apology necessary Wade...your point is very simple. You make the not so subtle insinuation that the BOT's of SWBTS of being defenders of the head instead of the body. You rightly point out that it is the sacred duty of the trustees to give human oversight to the institution even if it involves calling to task those serve in leadership of the institution. You point is I believe that the concern is more for Dr. Patterson’s reputation that the reputation of the institution. How could one not understand your point Wade, you and others have been making it over and over with your continuous scrutiny in minutia of everything PP. My conclusion...I disagree...and not because I am some type of blind follower of our heroes of the past. I believe there to much more behind all of this and thus why I have removed myself from the fray following the SBC in San Antonio. I care little for the politics of both sides...I found myself being sucked in and made the decision that I was not going to be a party to any of it. But I still have my convictions...and I guess my opinions...and whether one agrees with me or not is really non of my concern...we all have the sacred right to be wrong. : )

Now, can you tell me what my point was?

Jack "I am still on the turnip truck" Maddox

Jack Maddox said... comment about having the right to be wrong is directed towards myself...not others...thought I better clear that up before Debbie got a hold of me!


Lindon said...

As we all know from blogging, no two people read text the same exact way.

Exclamation points in Press Releases are rare, indeed. Seeing them used in these first thought was that they are literally begging us to agree with them.

Exclamation points in this instance communicate 'desperation' to me.

foxofbama said...


I hope your audience will go to Baps Today editor Johnny Pierce and his blog at and read his revelations about the debacle at the NAMB, with particular attention to the revelations about Johnny Hunt and Jay Strack

Also check my blog for October 19 and the great links including thoughts on SC pastor endorsing Mitt Romney

Jack Maddox said...

"Exclamation points in this instance communicate 'desperation' to me."

Perhaps they can also cummunicate 'conviction'...


Tim G said...

Funny how easy it is for some to find simple things that nag at the pet target. or ! or ??????

Intellectual superiority is indeed a grand tool for those who love to be elavated while demeaning others.


P.S. Maybe a few need to practice the willingness of allowing others to be "funny" some of the time. said...


Thanks for clarification. I think you have articulated very well the principle theme of my post. I believe your initial comment was to humorously wonder why institutions would ever listen to bloggers. said...


Your posts are often filled with exclamation points, consistent with your comment.


Anonymous said...


You said "One such note said, 'Weak point - shout loud.'"

The catchy little phrase that sums up what you are describing is this: "When in doubt, shout"

Jack Maddox said...

No Wade, that was not my point. Sorry you did not get it...not that it would matter.


Rex Ray said...

You guys,
What is Wade’s main objective?
He tells what is used when a weak statement is made.
Hitler had it right when he said tell a lie big enough and loud enough and people would believe it.

Is the main objective to tell how weak statements are made believable, or is the weak statements he mentions the main objective?

He used 238 words about exclamation points, and 501 words about what those exclamation points said.

Wade mentioned how Paul B. made the SWBTS trustees look foolish.

Wade agreed that Jack Maddox told his main point when Jack wrote, “You make the not so subtle insinuation that the BOT’s of SWBTS of being defenders of the head instead of the body….Your point is I believe that the concern is more for Dr. Patterson’s reputation than the reputation of the institution.”

My question is; why are you guys not addressing Wade’s main point?

Rex Ray said...

Dave Miller,
I agree whole hearted with you last conclusion:
“…the best thing you [Patterson] could do is enable Solomon to take your place.”

In short, that means the best thing Patterson could do for SWBTS is resign.

Steve said...

We cannot conceive how anyone can be any more open and honest than is Dr. Patterson!

Wow. That reminds me of the Presidential candidate saying he is 1000% behind his running mate about whom bad news has just emerged.

I remember that running mate being replaced within a day of the 1000% comment! :)

That was a good idea about David stepping down for Solomon.

Rex Ray said...

This was written on Ben Cole’s blog:
Paul B,
You mentioned the attacks on Dilday. Seems like what goes around comes around, or he who lives be the sword will die by it.

How much harm was done in reaching the world with the Gospel when over 100 of our missionaries were made to resign, and in one day 15 long time missionaries were fired just because they wouldn’t sign the/his BFM 2000?

Who are Southern Baptists?
Oh, they’re the Christians that made their doctrinal guideline their God and practice ‘our way or the highway.’

Wonder how Patterson will feel if the law teaches him Christian principles?
Wonder if the judge will be a woman?

I follow Christ. I am a Baptist second. And there was a time when Baptist took Priesthood of the Believer very seriously.

Don’t forget…SBC churches are autonomous. Mine does not have magistrates. Yet, I joyfully submit to humble, spiritually mature elders who are not power hungry nor go around ruining the lives of a Christian sister just because she is a woman.
…If the judge is a woman, I may just have to come to Texas for a visit. :o)

How about Patterson stepping down for anyone?

Rex Ray said...

What would be the outcome if Patterson used SWBTS trustee, Van McCain strategy?

Judge, I fired her only because I had a “momentary lax of the parameters.”

Or if the judge is a woman, his defense might be, ‘You have no authority over me.’

Bob Cleveland said...

I've been meaning to ask for a long time: were Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Noadiah, and Anna (prophetesses all), momentary laxes of parameters? If so, by whom, I wonder.

Not to mention letting Deborah judge Israel.

Anonymous said...

Well said.

The biggest flaw I see in the trustee system is that it can be manipulated by a relatively small number of people. There are several factors which contribute to a relatively small percentage of churches sending messengers to the annual convention which is where all the business is conducted. In any given year, only 2-3% of the churches send messengers, over the last decade, only 10% have done so. Most of those 45,000 churches are small, so when conventions meet in cities like Orlando, where the hotel rates and cost of food is astronomical, they can't even think about sending even their pastor as a messenger. So large churches with lots of resources that are connected through a political network send their maximum number of messengers, dominate the proceedings, and nominate committee members who will name the trustees that the power brokers want on the boards.

You would think, especially with the electronic techology available today, that Southern Baptists could figure out a better way of doing business than requiring messengers from churches to spend a fortune travelling to and staying in some convention city. There is a fine system in place for receiving Cooperative Program money and distributing it to the right places. Surely there could be a system put in place allowing every contributing church a fair opportunity at a voice in convention affairs.

Wayne Smith said...


In addition to your comment, have you noticed the number of messengers attending and the number who are present for voting? The rest are out sight seeing and not interested in the SBC procedures.

In His Name

Tim G said...

You make a great point in the fact that several use the marks to highlight conviction But since this now being pointed out as "improper", I will refrain from using anything at the end of sentences when addressing the supurior of intellect and knowledge in blogland and will do so inorder to preserve the unity among fellow preachers and Christians And this is a strong conviction but I will refrain from allowing others to see that

Thanks Jack for making a simply but profound point said...


Not improper at all.

Unwise and unneeded - revealing more about the user of it than the reader of it.

For what it is worth.

By the way, your comment reads much better without your usual exclamation points.


Steve said...

Someone said that the good Dr. Patterson has surrounded himself with obeisant knaves and subservient lackeys a/k/a "yes-men." I allege that I have no knowledge of this, and if someone alleges that I do, I deny the allegator. (HT: Louis Grizzard)

But IF it is the case that the Board of Trustees, honorable men all, are too beholden to their president, then Dr. P, as David, will certainly have to take it upon himself to resign or publicly state that such an act is possible. I know one fellow, Dr. McKissic, would not have to drive to far to meet with this board and be the Solomon thus called for.

Now, where is Nathan now that we need him?

Anonymous said...

some messengers are back at the hotel b/c they have young children who weren't very interested in the activities for kids... or b/c voting took place at 10pm and that is a tad bit late for kiddos.

Dave Miller said...

An observation from "Burleson Moderate" -

I describe myself that way because I agree with much of what Wade says, but sometimes take issue with things he says.

I am usually more likely to comment when I disagree with him.

However, I have observed a tendency among many of those who oppose Wade in general, those who support Paige and the powers-that-be in the SBC to resort to sarcasm, name-calling and petulant, childish comments.

KMC was among the more egregious examples of this, but look at Tim Guthrie's comments, and many others through this history of this blog. Every comment he makes seems to have a sarcastic, accusatory tone.

I would love to see some of the pro-Paige folks engage this site with ideas and dialogue, not sarcasm and accusation.

Paul A. Coleman said...

Greetings all. I am new here, but I found the discussion interesting, so here's my two cents worth:
Although the SWBTS trustee statement probably did not change anyone's mind, it did emphasize the points the trustees wanted to make and rally those loyal to the trustees' position around those points. It also served the purpose of provoking discussion of the statement on a number of blogs, drawing more attention to the statement than the original publication could have gathered alone. (I first read the statement on another blog.) So, in a sense it worked. Just an observation.

Tim G said...

I do appreciate your perspective but I disagree with your conclusions. Plus, your comment when aimed at generating ideas and dialogue actually does the same for which you blame. So here is an idea for you - study up on sarcastic humor. Ben's blog may be a great place to start. You may learn more than you would ever imagine.

creed said...

If I remember correctly, when Dr. Dilday was under siege by those who would clean the
temple a statement was made in support of Dr. Dilday to the effect that Satan was having a hay-day in the controversy at SWBTS. The opposition came unglued and were incensed that anyone would call them evil or doing the work of the devil. The Dilday camp responded with an irenic explanation that no one was being called a devil. Seems now it is okay to invoke that satanic evil is being done, souls being lost, when the shoe is on the other foot.

What a revolting development this is!


Rex Ray said...

Since 1947, the Fort Worth Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists have sponsored an annual Texas Gridiron Club dinner.

At their 1994 dinner, the journalist presented their annual Horse Collar Award [Jerry Jones received it for firing Tom Landry] to the fundamentalist trustees of SWBTS.

A voice spoke offstage:
...What Cleopatra did for chastity, [they] did for education…The reason for giving the award to this group, to quote the chairman of the trustees, Ralph Pulley, are “not pertinent. We don’t have to have a reason. We have the votes, and we can do it.”
For plunging religion to new depths, and for elevating stupidity to new heights, the Gridiron’s Horse Collar Award for 1994 goes to the 27 trustees of SWBTS who voted to can Russell Dilday.

Sam, do you reckon the trustees “momentary lax of the parameters.” Will get them another award?