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Skipping a period… and then some

September 11, 2008

As the written word succumbs to further and further Twitterazation, we editors lament the passing of a time-honored tradition that dates back to the Moabite language of the first millennium BC: punctuation.

Emails and text messages are fired back and forth with greater frequency throughout the modern workday. Subsequently, I’ve noticed that many of my correspondents have elected to forgo the use of punctuation marks altogether. I assume the omissions are not meant to evoke some kind of Joycean stream of consciousness, but rather are a sign of our ever-fragmented times. Periods, question marks, colons and commas are, it seems, too much of a bother to clutter up our character-heavy prose. Perhaps they’re simply too formal.

Twitter, the micro-blogging Web site through which users post their most mundane daily activities, has only hastened the trend. Consider a typical Twitter post:

making cookies with lauren gonna watch gossipgirl got school tomorrow that sucks but tomorrows friday so yay party at sonyas ; )

Here, the author’s only use of punctuation is an informal construct meant to alert the reader of her excitement over Sonya’s party. However, traditional marks have been completely neglected.


When email went from novelty to fact of life, way back in the 1990s, I remember noticing the slow deterioration of grammar and style. Capitalization was the first to go. Its death was followed by the use of acronyms for every conceivable turn of phrase, a practice that was embraced by the mainstream once text-messaging replaced the phone call as the preferred means of communication.

Given such a climate, punctuation — or what is left of it — doesn’t stand a chance. Period.

Ironically, I only came to this realization today as I was consulting my AP Style Guide on the proper protocol for comma usage with name suffixes. Although my job demands that I stay well-versed in such matters, I would have researched this information on my own time just to satisfy my curiosity.

i know that makes me unusual but i get off this kind of thing so yay

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One Comment leave one →
  1. September 13, 2008 4:20 pm

    How anal is it of me to use proper grammar and punctuation when in chat, on instant message and even text messaging? I even spell all the words out, and spell them correctly. My teenager says, “Mom, you are so uncool.” I just hope that he grows up to be as uncool as I am.

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