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Slap My Words Up: Language in the Digital World

If technology is a pimp, our language is its favorite bitch. The tricks that our words are asked to turn on the streets of social media and online publishing are lauded in our dictionaries and style guides. Googling and unfriending are verbs, no one knows what to do with a semicolon, and maybe it doesn’t matter. Soon we’ll be talking to our computers instead of typing on them. Will we have to speak our punctuation question mark Or will we do without? Regardless of where we’re headed, many readers still think less of you and your brand when they think they see an error. This is especially true in campaign messaging but perhaps less so in off-the-cuff, character-restricted social media bursts. The members of this panel think about this every day and are paid to care because we write for brands who do (most of the time). But some of us are left wondering if this pimp is on to something. Like Anne Trubek said in Wired, maybe its thyme to let luce. The Johns—readers—like what they see.

Additional Supporting Materials


  1. We are all screen writers now, but Smartphones, iPads, Nooks, Web pages and apps present us with an additional copy challenge—a jumble of orientations. It’s enough to make an editor pull his hair out! How do grammar, style, punctuation and other language concerns come into play when we have to write for multiple screens and orientations? How is this changing the way readers and writers look at copy?
  2. Is digital writing closer to speech than to what we've called "writing" since the first marks were scratched onto clay tablets? Is digital communication—fast, fluid, informal, asynchronous, ephemeral, inherently social—more like speech than writing? Is the Internet taking us back to the future, away from written culture and toward a culture that shares many of the same characteristics of early oral cultures?
  3. Should brands use a more relaxed voice in social media? If so, what does that mean for grammar and language? Can grammar that's too formal hurt your brand?
  4. In the Wild West of the Internet, how do you deal with the language of an amateur (commenter/blogger/tweeter) versus the carefully constructed language of a professional communicator?
  5. What's the difference between a typo and an error, can the reader tell the difference, and what does each say about the writer/brand who made it? In a world of auto-correct, spell-check and a lack of copy editors, how can you make fewer mistakes (assuming you still think it matters)?



Gail Marie, Content Editor, McKinney

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