This is a great article by Jeff Guo, at the Washington Post. If you have adolescent kids, you’ll appreciate it even more.
Mr. Guo illustrates a text conversation between a parent and a child. From the first read, it seems like a typical miscommunication between the two, but after a second read, it’s much deeper and revealing than that.
Ironically, for me, the example in the Washington Post article seemed familiar and when I had re-read Mr. Guo’s story, it all hit home.
Most people that I know type text messages in the same way they would type an email – with sentences and punctuation.
However, one of my friends doesn’t usually send a single text with punctuation (periods, commas, etc). Here is an example of one of her text messages:
Me: Happy July!!!
Her: lol not yet 😉
Me: Why not, it’s the first?
If you’ll notice, there are actually two styles of communication happening here. First, there is my typical sentence structure and punctuation. Then, there is my friend’s style, where there isn’t any sentence structure, or punctuation. Rather, my friend uses line breaks, by sending separate sequential texts, to separate thoughts and ideas. In fact, more and more people are using this very same technique in their communications.
But, that’s just the tip of the iceberg, here. Mr. Guo rightfully goes into some interesting psychological and historical aspects of language.
Ultimately, Mr. Guo infers that, relative to texting, society has done away with the period, saying, “The period had stopped serving any grammatical purpose. Instead, it was mostly being used to express a certain tone or emotion. And that emotion was anger.”
The important thing to take away from Mr. Guo’s article is that by aligning your message with your target audience and by speaking in their terms, their lingo, your message will be better received and likely understood more appropriately.
In an interesting contrast, here goes a recent example of how Microsoft tried using the language of their audience – how they did it completely wrong – and how they bombed.
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