Over the years, the way we communicate with others has greatly changed. No longer do I pick up a house phone and dial a friend's house phone to ask if he wants to do something on Friday night. In fact, I don't dial anything. I shoot him a quick text that asks a direct question. The response may take a bit more time than simply calling would, but the effect is a much smoother transfer of information that is (usually) more convent for both parties.
As such, text messaging has granted us a new – and much better – way to communicate with friends, family and coworkers. But cut one corner and you'll soon find yourself cutting more and more, finding a quicker and simpler way to do things. In the world of text messaging and, similarly, online communication, corner cutting can come in many forms. One of the most prominent is abbreviations and substituting numbers and other symbols for words. People have come to substitute common strings of words with the first letter of each word (i.e.: "not much" to "nm" or "hit me up" to "hmu"), creating a long and ever-growing list of awkward, inarticulate acronyms.
Earlier today, Lifehacker writer Thorin Klosowski asked, "Does Proper Grammar Matter in Text Messages?" Klosowski cites an opinion piece discussing the importance of punctuation in text messaging by English professor Ben Yagoda on The New York Times and researcher from Simon Fraser University who suggests that while text messaging may change the way we communicate, it serves to prove the creativity of younger generations. He then opens the floor to discussion by readers in the comment section, asking whether grammar and punctuation are important in text messaging.
Yagoda seems to believe punctuation is key, as one of its primary purposes is to convey emotion. He talks about how combinations of punctuation – such as "question-exclamation combos" or multiple question marks or exclamation points – can help invoke emotion into an otherwise emotionless sentence. He also gives an anecdote of a criticism dealt by his 21-year-old daughter:
"My 21-year-old daughter once criticized my habit of ending text-message sentences with a period. For a piece of information delivered without prejudice, she said, you don't need any punctuation at the end ('Movie starts at 6'). An exclamation point is minimally acceptable enthusiasm ('See you there!'). But a period just comes off as sarcastic ('Good job on the dishes.')."
Although quite exaggerated, the image above is not unlike some of the text messages I sometimes get from friends.
In the days of T9, abbreviations and other ways to shorten the painful process of text messaging was acceptable. A nine-digit numeric pad with two or three letters delegated to each key did make for some tricky typing. But even then, I remember spelling out every word and capitalizing each and every proper noun.
Now there is no excuse. With software such as auto-correct, word prediction, spell check, word completion and word substitution, there is no reason anyone should still abbreviate words and use Internet lingo, acronyms or the like. I may sound like an old, grumpy geezer, but it's pure laziness, and it's frustrating and sometimes difficult to read. When I get a message with all sorts of ambiguous abbreviations and shortened words ("tom" or "tmrw" instead of "tomorrow"), it's difficult for me to respond without some nasty retort.
Admittedly, I have stooped to the use of "lol" as most people have. But I try to stick to "ha" or "haha" as much as possible.
I'm less worried about others using punctuation, but I always try to be as proper as possible when text messaging – or whenever I'm typing anything, for that matter. I don't get upset if a friend omits a question mark at the end of a question or a period at the very end of a text. I don't read too far into what any of that may suggest. I don't read into what two question marks instead of just one means, or what a single exclamation mark means instead of four, five or even six.
To me, punctuation, grammar and correct spelling are very important, even in something as simple as a text message. I always try my best to be as grammatically correct as possible and I never abbreviate anything. However, as Yagoda's daughter chastised him for ending his sentences with a period, I get questioned by all of my friends about why I am so anal about grammar and punctuation. For starters, I don't have to try very hard. Nobody does. If you let them, soft keyboards do most of the work for you. Using SwiftKey or the stock Android keyboard, punctuation is nearly effortless, and much of the time it's predicted/suggested for me. All it takes is one extra tap – sometimes a tap and slide.
I try to be as professional and correct as possible. That is how I have been for as long as I can remember, and I guess it trickles down to some of the simpler things in life such as text messaging. And last week when using only dictation, I strove to be as proper as humanly possible. It drove me up the wall when I couldn't get punctuation to work properly in a text message. More than once, it drove me to the point where I was frustrated enough that I just called the person. And believe me, that's rare.
So, yes. Punctuation and grammar are important when text messaging for me. However, I know that may not be so for others, so I try not to worry myself over it too much. That said, if I have trouble reading a text message on the first try, chances are I won't give it a second read and will quickly move on to something else a little less frustrating.
What say you, ladies and gents? Are punctuation and grammar important to you when text messaging? Or do you prefer to abbreviate and shorten/quicken your text messages any way possible? Sound off with your thoughts in the comments section below.