6 02 2018

How the internet changed the way we write – and what to do about it

The usual evolution of English has been accelerated online, leading to a less formal – but arguably more expressive – language than the one we use IRL. So use those emojis wisely …

English has always evolved – that’s what it means to be a living language – and now the internet plays a pivotal role in driving this evolution. It’s where we talk most freely and naturally, and where we generally pay little heed to whether or not our grammar is “correct”.

Should we be concerned that, as a consequence, English is deteriorating? Is it changing at such a fast pace that older generations can’t keep up? Not quite. At a talk in 2013, linguist David Crystal, author of Internet Linguistics, said: “The vast majority of English is exactly the same today as it was 20 years ago.” And his collected data indicated that even e-communication isn’t wildly different: “Ninety per cent or so of the language you use in a text is standard English, or at least your local dialect.”

It’s why we can still read an 18th-century transcript of a speech George Washington gave to his troops and understand it in its entirety, and why grandparents don’t need a translator when sending an email to their grandchildren.

Read further @ The Guardian