Texting with someone who is chronically online can be a strange experience. The younger crowd tends to follow its own grammar rules, whether it’s avoiding periods like the plague or consistently using lowercase.
Grammar is a crucial building block of communication, but the internet pushes to break down the rigid lines.
In a conversation with The New Yorker, novelist and essayist Mary Gaitskill described conversations on a platform like Twitter as akin to talking to yourself: “You’re sitting in a room and there’s no one in front of you.”
It isn’t like writing a book, nor is it talking off the top of your head, said Gaitskill. But it is a revelation of your psyche within Twitter’s 280-character limit.
Here’s a list of internet grammar rules to talk like Gen Z.
Capitalize, but with intention
This is a generation that swapped long corded phones with cellphones. Gen Z youth have spent a lot of time communicating through their smartphones or computers, changing the way language is formatted.
In general, fewer people online follow the rules of capitalization and prefer the casual and friendly tone of the lowercase.
“On the internet people have stopped caring about these non-functional rules of grammar, and started using caps for other reasons,” Lauren Fonteyn, a linguistics lecturer at the University of Manchester, told Mashable.
Now, words are often capitalized to convey special intention “but to make the words more default, neutral, or ‘unmarked,’ lowercase is used,” she said.
Consider these three sentences:
“I love this.”
“I LOVE this!!”
“I love THIS!!!”
Only one of the above sentences is grammatically correct, but all three make sense based on the specific capitalizations.
A full stop can seem hostile
Many people consider using grammar rules while texting as rigid, especially the period.
“Think of a mother using her son’s full name when issuing a stern ultimatum. Or of an upset lover speaking to a partner in a cool, professional tone, withholding intimate silliness and warmth to convey frustration,” wrote Max Marrison-Caldwell for The New York Times.
A 2015 study by Binghamton University found that text messages with periods come across as less sincere.
“Older people — do you realize that ending a sentence with a full stop comes across as sort of abrupt and unfriendly to younger people in an email/chat? Genuinely curious,” wrote Rhiannon Cosslett, a columnist at The Guardian, on Twitter. The post is now deleted.
Don’t be afraid of exclamation points (!!!!!)
Using a bunch of exclamation points on your resume and cover letter could be a terrible idea, but let loose when the stakes are low in a casual conversation online.
What’s grammatically correct is a single exclamation point, but internet speak sometimes depends on different language tools to convey meaning.
Multiple exclamation points are the perfect way to show excitement.
What the new grammar is really about
It isn’t simply about challenging the status quo, but a reflection of the digital age we live in. Looking beyond the hundreds of emojis and weird capitalizations is a need to express emotions more accurately via text.