Punctuation in the Digital Age
Social media has become a popular way to learn and practice English. But it seems punctuation has taken a hit as a result.
While social media platforms are great for using the language, what is it doing to the written word? More specifically, how is social media affecting punctuation and does it really matter anyway?
What do experts think?
An article in Digiday titled digital-age punctuation suggests that there’s a good reason for the change in use. Text messages, DMs, PMs… whatever it is you do, it’s difficult to express emotion through the strictly written word in this form.
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To compensate, a lot of people are starting to over-use punctuation marks like the exclamation mark or doubling or tripling question marks and then leaving out the full stop altogether. Is this a trend we should be concerned about?
How it affects English learners
For English learners, it seems an important thing to be able to use punctuation correctly. Especially when preparing to study or work abroad. It may not be such a bad thing to be able to use the language in this new way. A differentiation must be made between social use and formal text, however.
Like I stated at the beginning, communicating emotion and meaning through text is difficult even for native speakers of English, which is the cause of this evolution of punctuation. Everyone wants to make sure they are being understood clearly. That is exactly what learners of English are doing as well. It isn’t a mimicking of poor punctuation; it’s an effort to be understood on a platform that doesn’t allow for other context clues like intonation or visual expression.
For most learners, the goal is to become fluent and carry on a conversation. Being extra clear in text messages makes the intended meaning clearer. The answer to the question of whether it’s detrimental to the current system of written language, in my opinion, is no. In fact, it serves to enhance the language and make it more accessible to a wider range of speakers.
Should we preserve the formal punctuation rules for literature? Perhaps, but in a language that is changing and evolving so rapidly, it’s impossible to maintain the same old rules for long. Holly Honderich writes in the BBC article Do apostrophes still matter? John Richards, a retired journalist stated: “The battle is over, bad grammar has won.” This statement may resonate with some, but for grammar enthusiasts, it seems the war is just beginning!!!