When You Text, Think Like a Poet

I discovered this fascinating New Zealand newspaper article — Using full stops in messages makes you sound ‘angry’, according to linguists — via the excellent online group Editors’ Association of the Earth. It argues that “If you’re the type of person that needs every message to be perfectly grammatically correct, it turns out you might not be putting forward the vibe you think you are. According to linguists, the use of punctuation – specifically full stops – is intimidating to a lot of young people, because it comes off as a sign of ‘anger’ in social media messages.”

The comments in the group flew back and forth, and within 12 hours there were a couple of hundred responses. We editors take our grammar and language conventions very seriously. And to come after something as serious as the concluding period of a thought! Still, even we can’t stop language and communication from changing and adapting in the 21st century.

For my own communications, I’m trying to approach punctuation in texts and online comments — particularly with loved ones and other folks of the “digital native” generations — like Emily Dickinson approached punctuation in her poetry.

“The Soul selects her own Society”

The Soul selects her own Society —
Then — shuts the Door —
To her divine Majority —
Present no more —

Unmoved — she notes the Chariots — pausing —
At her low Gate —
Unmoved — an Emperor be kneeling
Upon her Mat —

I’ve known her — from an ample nation —
Choose One —
Then — close the Valves of her attention —
Like Stone —

Emily Dickinson, “The Soul selects her own Society”

Texting feels poetic to me, because of the limitations on length imposed by the technology. Typing in small chat windows, or on a smart phone, has made me a more concise writer. Access to emojis — and a Wild West approach to style (no one is working from memory of their grammar for texting classes, or from a texting style book) — has hopefully made me a more creative communicator.

And the definitions of concise and creative definitely shift over time! YMMV (your mileage may vary) ?