nwspk (Newspeak)

Have you ever shortened a word when communicating on the internet or through text for simplicity purposes? I’m sure you have as many of us would, especially when talking informally with friends. And even though we know we couldn’t use these same shorthand abbreviations (or grammar cheats as I call them) in formal writing, they have still become useful and heavily practiced in the right domains.

The domain we want to investigate is the internet (obviously) where informal chatter is essential to the birth of shorthand and the evolution of it. But, curiously enough, the idea of shorthand was predicted in the 1949 novel by George Orwell, 1984, far before the thought of the internet was even seeded.

As you have already noticed in the title, I abbreviated the word “Newspeak” the way I wanted to use it in my message. Knowing the word prior to experiencing the abbreviation generally helps the audience better understand what is being said, so that is why I included the formal word to follow. Now, don’t lose me yet, because you’ll be interested in knowing what Newspeak is, where it came from, and where it could take us.

George Orwell predicted in his novel a new language known as Newspeak:

“Newspeak’s grammar is arranged so that any word can serve as any part of speech, and there are three different groups of vocabulary words…  In comparison with modern English, these words are fewer in number but more rigid in meaning. Newspeak leaves no room for nuance, or for degrees of meaning.”

source: Sparknotes

This new type of language Orwell depicted for the future is identical to our habits of shorthand today, especially on the internet. As mentioned above, the language of Newspeak has different groups of vocabulary words:

“The B vocabulary consists entirely of compound words and often compresses words into smaller forms to achieve conceptual simplicity: the English phrase “Thought Police,” for instance, is compressed into “thinkpol”; “the Ministry of Love” becomes “miniluv.””

source: Sparknotes

Look strikingly familiar? I hope so. Even the word “vocabulary” is often shortened to “vocab” for simplicity and generally accepted everywhere in all sorts of domains. So if we do it outside of the internet, what kind of words do we shorten for simplicity inside of the internet? Here are a few:

addy (address)                     nm, u (not much, you?)

buhbye (bye)                        shhh (quiet)

huh (what?)                         wub (love)

mmk (mmm & ok)              lol (laughing out loud)

What a nice simple list of examples above… would you believe me if I told you there were hundreds of shorthand acronyms that exist on the internet? Check them out here  and here.


Maybe it is just me, but I think it is crazy that a writer predicted our habit for shorthand 67 years ago. Even crazier is that an entire language has been born on the internet curtailing this idea of Newspeak and simplifying modern English for informal communication. Orwell explains in his novel that Newspeak is used by the National Party to limit the range of thought the people can have and better prevent such vocabulary that could and would incite rebellious acts against the government. I do not want to get into politics in this blog, and so I would like to add that I do not believe we are on the verge of all becoming mindless sheep using internet acronyms to communicate. Lets just focus on the predictability of shorthand and the use it could have in the future…

Acronyms and shorthand are sometimes difficult to fully grasp like  formal writing without knowing the pretence of the acronym or even the context of its use. For example, let us look at an AIM conversation between Sally and Jim Bob:

Wednesday, 12/7/2014

Sally: I am bored AF.

Jim Bob: Wyd?

Sally: chillaxin. u?

Jim Bob: Same. LM4a~##zzzz>

Sally: def. 

How much of this conversation do you understand? I am assuming most of it since we have all been exposed to internet lingo long enough to catch the meaning of each acronym. That last thing Jim Bob mentioned was something I did not know and have never used in a conversation before. I won’t ruin the surprise, so go ahead and click on the hyperlink above to see what he meant….

So you see there are endless possibilities for acronyms and shorthand on the internet. Many of them follow us everywhere we go becoming habits of thought. Laughing out Loud and Talk To You Later are two very common ones that we sometimes literally SAY because they have become so common use. That may be part of our linguistic future as Orwell predicted it to be. Not only may we be formulating acronyms on the internet but quite possibly integrating them into our speech for the simplicity and common thread of understanding we create with them.

Woah woah woah, I know a few of you just got goosebumps down your spine from the thought of speaking in acronyms. But don’t freight, this is what this blog exist for –  to help us all understand internet grammar with open minds. I highly doubt Orwell’s prediction of Newspeak will manifest itself ever. Language is a growing and ever-changing adaptable tool, of course. But in order for an entire language to shift from traditional long hand usage to internet lingo and gibberish, it would have to penetrate the hundreds of layers English alone has in its grammatical basis and structure.

Take a deep breath and EMBRACE the use of acronyms. They do provide a great deal of simplicity in informal chatter and reveal licks of cleverness here and there. The world may be extremely rocky in its current state, but this is no 1984 novel, and English must remain malleable – use it to your advantage!

















Did the Internet Kill Grammar?

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.

when-its-midterm-paper-szn-imgur     This only happens about once a year. - Imgur.png

Source: imgur.com

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.)

Is Texting Killing the English Language?  (2013.)

Is Bad Grammar Killing Your Brand? (2014.)