RIP the full stop. 1000AD – 2015
The full stop has been demonised, replaced by the exclamation mark, the ellipsis and the emoji. But why is it that Generation Y (myself included) will do anything and everything to avoid our most humble and beloved piece of punctuation?
Last week I received a text from my father that read: ‘Good luck. Write quickly then go to bed.’ It was a Sunday evening, I was tired, and I had just returned from a ten-hour shift with the task of writing a 2,500-word essay before bedtime. My father’s text felt unsympathetic; rude, in fact. Had I done something wrong? Where was the triple exclamation mark of encouragement that I so needed? Where was the sequence of smiling, praying, thumbs up emojis telling me that everything was going to be ok?
I am half way through ridiculing my father for his digital etiquette – and then it hits me, like an Oxford English Dictionary over the head.
Like those 15-year-old girls the smiley was undoubtedly created for, I too, at 21 years of age, have fallen victim to a curse; a curse that is slowly brainwashing the youth of today; a curse so agonizingly destructive it has taken me this long to admit: the curse of the emoji.
It’s teenage text-speak gone mad. Gone are the days when messages to our friends read ‘Ok. See you in half an hour.’ Now we feel an inexplicable need to embellish our writing, if for no other reason than to avoid coming across as cold-hearted and rude. It’s no longer cool or polite to be grammatically correct. Instead, the full stop has gained some kind of undeserved association with candor. It’s the devil of modern punctuation; a typographic slap in the face; the guest who leaves without saying goodbye. End with a full stop and you may as well be saying ‘don’t bother to reply’. It’s considered harsh, blunt, rude even.
So what is it we do to combat this most devilish of dots? I myself have a number of regular tactics. Take ‘ok’, for example. Follow it with a full stop and you risk sounding blunt and angry. Replace it with a simple smiley face, however, and problem solved – you’re the happy, fun, easy-going individual you always wanted the recipient of your text to think you are.
There are other methods too, for when one’s digital cheeks start to ache. They say all good things come in threes, so how about an ellipsis to avoid sounding too blunt? Or why not try an exclamation mark to lighten the tone? Perhaps chuck in a ‘haha’ to soften the blow. You get the idea.
Have I gone insane? Both my inner consciousness and my father tell me I have. I – a journalist, a lover of words, of grammar, of punctuation – have fallen victim to a trend so dangerous I fear our beloved English language may be damaged to the point of no return. I understand trends in fashion, trends in music, trends in language, even…but trends in punctuation? Has the world gone completely mad? Has our society become so sensationalized and emojised that we have lost the ability to use our most beautifully simple and beloved piece of English punctuation: the full stop?
It’s not everyone who’s adopted this fear of the full stop, however. My mother’s texts from friends still read as mine did back when lol still meant lots of love: ‘Ok. Please arrive for 8. I will bring pudding. Emmax’, for example. Let’s ignore that generation’s insistent use of the gr8 text language of 2007, their desire to sign off every text with their name, and just for a second let’s even ignore their inability to put a space between their name and the kiss – I would never expect to receive such a message from a friend, and if I did I would be forced to assume they had reason to be very, very angry with me indeed.
No, my mother’s friends are not boring, nor are they in some constant state of anger and frustration. See them together and they could be mistaken for a giggling gaggle of 15-year-old girls. Yet my mother would never think to add an unnecessary ‘ah’ before she says ‘ok’. She would never re-read a text and decide to chuck in a few ellipses. I – on the other hand – feel some compulsive need to add in a digital sigh before my agreement to avoid coming across as a complete cow.
What will it be in 5 years time? Will correct punctuation be deemed too offensive all together? Will we be forced to communicate entirely through emojis and exclamation marks? Will we feel the need to accompany each message with some kind of holographic representation of our facial expression just to put the recipient’s mind at ease?
So to those who received texts from me today, I’m sorry. I promise I’m not mad, I’m not angry, and you certainly haven’t done anything wrong. That blunt and unfriendly text you received was my desperate, last minute attempt to save the full stop, before it’s too late.