Truss, stop blaming everything on the Internet!

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From Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss:

“As for our writing personally to each other, how often do you hear people complain that emails subtract the tone of voice; that it’s hard to tell if someone is joking or not?  Clicking on ‘send’ has its limitations as a system of subtle communication.  Which is why, of course, people use so many dashes and italics and capitals (‘I AM joking!’) to compensate.  That’s why they came up with the emoticon, too...” (Truss 192). 

I agree with Truss that emails, instant messaging, and texting can only reach a certain extent of expression.  Sometimes it is hard to tell if people are just being sarcastic, or if they mean what they say.  But I do have a little problem with what Truss is saying here.  It can be confusing sometimes, yes.  But it can be confusing whether it is in an email, a handwritten letter, or even a book.  It’s not that “emails subtract the tone of voice,” it’s that the people writing them aren’t careful enough to enunciate their meaning.  Just like it’s not poor punctuation’s fault that people butcher it, it is not fair to blame electronic text-based communication for all the problems people have with communicating themselves in words. 

Also, if the whole point is to express the “tone of voice” without actually hearing the person talk, in an informal setting, I don’t think there is anything wrong with using emoticons, italics, capitals, whatever people need to use to get their point across. The problem is that people are letting their internet habits seep into more formal writing.  But this is not the Internet’s fault, it is the fault of the people who use the Internet and don’t care enough to make a distinction between formal and informal situations.  Blaming the Internet for the deterioration of grammar is simply unfair.      


Ally Hall said:

Greta, I have to agree with you to a point. Surely, the internet has to be blamed to a certain extent for the deterioration of grammar. For, without the internet being there in the first place, we would have no need for the internet lingo that screws people up. But I agree with you: people need to take care when writing formal documents and not let that internet lingo seep into it. I don't want to be reading a research paper I assign later and find lols and omgs and u/i in them. I expect a level of professionalism and I think everyone needs to bring themselves up to that point.

Greta Carroll said:

Yes, that is true that without the internet there wouldn't be the possibility for those things to seep into formal writing. You make a good point. But I still think it is more each individual person's fault and not the Internet's.

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