When people say anything can be found on the internet, it is not a statement of opinion, but a well known FACT. And in this incredible digital space we have seen the sparking evolution of emoticons, abbreviations, character limits, GIFs, and everyone’s favorite, the meme.
In this internet evolution, a new use for grammar has emerged in all its grandness. Most likely it terrifies a traditionalist third grade English teacher and yet come as a second language to you and your friends. Grammar (as well as punctuation) on the internet does not always follow the ‘rules’ we were all taught growing up.
The word ‘Hate’ can be spelled ‘H8’ and still be understood; Hashtags don’t work if you insert a space between your words; Some words have been born from the internet, like ‘Selfie’ or ‘Lit’. It has been said in pop culture that the internet is where grammar ‘goes to die’; but it is arguably just as so that the internet is where grammar has found a new space to be reborn.
For my rule followers and grammar police reading this, take a deep breath. One thing you MUST keep in the forefront of your mind is that this new wave of “internet English” is not to replace what we have always known. Just as Renaissance Art followed Classical Art, what we see now is a new form of the old, created by the new minds of a different generation.
But why do all these shortcuts and grammatical changes occur, and why is society accepting them so hastily? Because like it or not, the speed of ideas and cultural concepts is increasing exponentially every minute of the day, especially in digital space. Moving forward in the endless ocean of the internet means that the trends in language and concepts of communication constantly see a reconstruction of use, as well as meaning.
Rather than killing grammar, the internet has become a place for English to prosper and change shape. Better yet, the English form and grammar tones have remained the same in formal usage and gained a greater audience. Famous daily newspapers like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal publish articles online everyday using traditional grammar and long form with professional editing. The World Wide Web allows these two digital contributors (and millions of others) access to the network anywhere in the world- making it the largest reachable audience in existence.
We must not fear what the internet has in store for the English language; instead we must always keep English and other languages usable and relative to the arena (social context) in which we use them. When you log onto Facebook or Twitter you enter a digital realm culturally agreeing when and how ‘informal’ writing is used. This writing style is generally acceptable and understood by others.
Does that mean in twenty years our children will read from textbooks with emoticons and shorthand abbreviations? No- it doesn’t seem at all very possible. But as long as social realms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram exist (and they don’t seem to be going away anytime soon) it is in our best interest to embrace and learn what we can from the grammar blossoming every which way in digital media.
Here are some things to consider as we travel onward into the field of digital language and grammar as it evolves together:
- Don’t be a grammar cop on informal social media sites. You will always see a vast mix of purposely useful shorthand AND commonly misspelled words out there. If it isn’t a scholarly journal or source of formal writing, don’t sweat it!
- Open your mind up! English is transformational and never concrete. New words are bound to spring up as they become of use to the human language; since we share a space with millions in the digital realm, it can be of no surprise that we may find ourselves recreating meaning in it.
- Dare to enjoy what you find. There will be some things out there on the internet that spur your interest as a writer. If it happens don’t be afraid to embrace your curiosity and dive into more. This means exploring the writing style or grammatical build of a particular blogger, journalist, or public figure you come across in your journey.
- Explore your style. As we transcend together into this new realm of what English looks like in the digital realm explore where you are at grammatically and how you like to write. Then take what you discover and use it out there the ME in MEDIA you create every day!
Moving forward with this dialogue we will travel through other gripping elements of grammar in the digital media world. With every new topic, seek to discover what each means to your writing style and the future of language.
Until next time natives!
If you still have any lingering fears about confronting new grammar in digital media, checkout these other articles that will give you some comfort and tips on how to approve it critically.
Has the Internet Killed Grammar? (2014.)