Grammar hour: What’s the deal with punctuation on social media?

Like most Millennials, you probably have a social media account. Whether it be Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, or all of the above, social media plays a prominent role in today’s society. In fact, the Pew Research Center published a 2016 report that shows 90% of American adults aged 18-29 are on some form of social media.

With such a large amount of people storming these sites everyday, it’s implied that a good amount of word-savvy journalists or writers are on the social sites; whether it be promoting their work or posting about today’s political climate. Their tweets are often professional, to the point, and grammatically correct. However, one question comes to my mind when I see a well copy edited post: why does their usage of periods on social media feel so inappropriate, and in some cases, almost rude?

According to Professor David Crystal, an author, editor, and writer, when used in text messages, periods can come off as insincere and even aggressive responses. For example, let’s say you send a text to a friend that reads: “Hey, I have to cancel on our plans today, should we reschedule?” And they respond with “Okay.” The period, that is indeed placed properly, almost conveys a sense of disappointment or disinterest. But when you add a few exclamation points “Okay!!!!” the response seems much more lively and accepting.

But why? It’s simple: We can’t show any facial expression through the internet, nor can we listen to tone of voice. We must embrace a more expressive and loose usage of grammar if we want to convey our emotion’s properly through the web.

In an academic setting, this wild and free grammar usage would by no means be accepted, and is one of the reasons they (periods) add to my feelings of distaste when I see them on social media. Social media, for me, is a place to either keep up to date with the news, or unwind and look at some funny memes. Seeing an “average joe” use the appropriate grammar stuns me, because social media sites just aren’t the right place to utilize appropriate grammar.

They aren’t classrooms, they’re a playground for grammatical freedom; something that’s hard to find acceptance for anywhere else. The sites don’t make it any easier to use it the right grammar either. the character limit on Twitter is 140 for a reason, we’re trying to express an opinion or make a point, not write an essay.

Also, in an age of instant gratification, the last thing I want to do while scrolling down Twitter’s timeline, reading tweets, is stop for a period. With an endless amount of other, possibly more interesting tweets to read, a period basically means “move on.”

As a writer, I read through and copy edit my work extensively (and definitely overthink it). It’s be nice to break the rules once and a while, ya feel me?

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