What happened to punctuation as we knew it? If you’ve been striving to use it properly in print, digital technology has changed the way we use it today. For example, we are more focused on word count than sentence structure. Even for the non-grammatically obsessed, deviations from the established rules of punctuation and grammar indicate a break from tradition.
With the proliferation of smartphones, tablets, texts, and social networking, we’re communicating our thoughts so much and so fast that punctuation has become less important, almost superfluous. Internet culture generally favors a lighter, more informal style of punctuation.
Technology has led us to use written language more like speech, in a real-time, back-and-forth between two or more people. For example, a line break allows people to more accurately emulate in writing the rhythm of speech.
When texting first became popular, all grammar bets were off. It was the emotion or intent behind the communication that mattered. As long as you got your point across, sentence structure became a thing of the past. Here are some examples:
The period: Why use it at the end of a sentence when the meaning doesn’t change whether it’s there or not. It can be completely absent and becomes implied. Other times a comma takes its place.
The comma: Once it was used to separate phrases in a sentence, now (rather than a semicolon) it’s used to string together two sentences for one train of thought.
The semicolon: Not quite a comma or period, the semicolon was useful as a separator and connector, but today no one uses it in day-to-day casual writing.
The exclamation point: Aside from eliminating punctuation, we also use it excessively. For example, adding five exclamation points instead of one shows that we are passionate. In the past, using exclamation points too frequently was thought to make them less meaningful.
Although the long-established rules of correct grammar have faded in some types of writing, correct punctuation still has its place in others. It’s just more difficult to know which style to use, and when.