An exchange over text or IM with my 19-year-old sister tends to look something like this:

Me: Hi!

Her: Hey Bee!!!!!! How are you?????

Me: I’m good, just super busy. This semester might kill me, haha.

Her: Oh no!!!!!! :( Why?????

The exclamation points and question marks abound, often accompanied by emoticons. The funny thing is, if you have a face-to-face conversation with her, you’ll find that she talks in multiple exclamation points, too. She doesn’t just talk; she exclaims almost everything, at least in a more brief, passing conversation.

She’s told me that this is because she wants it always to be clear to people she interacts with that she’s excited to see them, excited to talk to them. While she takes this to an arguable extreme, I can understand that. Most of my texts are liberally sprinkled with “hahas” and “LOLs” and “:)s”. Sentences with only a simple period at the end strike me as personality-less at best, and curt or aloof at worst.

“The caf is probably closed, haha.” There’s nothing funny about that sentence. No need for a “haha.” But “The caf is probably closed.” looks to me like it could be interpreted as irritated or disinterested or cheerless or simply too abrupt, and if I’m none of those things, I worry about coming across wrong.

It’s silly, I know. I resist period-only comments on Facebook much of the time, too. I once had a professor challenge me to indicate my feelings over such mediums by using exactly the right words rather than by inserting emoticons or laughter or too many punctuation marks. It’s an intriguing idea, but one I’m wary of. I’m not sure if I distrust my own ability to do so, or whether I have some weird paranoia about being misread.

I have no problem whatsoever avoiding all the extra expressions I use over text while I’m blogging, and in fact it actually annoys me when people don’t. Maybe it’s because a blog is for full expression through words — true writing — not just making a comment or an interjection or direct communication, so I expect blogs to follow the rules of good writing. I cringe at the thought of a smiley face appearing in one of my posts.




One thought on “Punctuation

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