As the social media specialist for Robertson and Markowitz, it should be no surprise that I talk a lot about social media’s great impact on our industry and society in general. In the age of texting, tweeting, blogging, and status updates, conversation has become more and more casual and informal. It’s obvious that social media has greatly impacted the landscape of the English language and how it is used everyday. For example, when I worked in the public affairs department of a large corporation, the employees all had Blackberrys that they would use to check and write emails when they were away from their computers. The signature of these emails always read something to the effect of, “Please excuse the brevity and errors in this message. Sent from my Blackberry.” The simple fact that the email was sent from a cell phone excused any spelling and grammatical errors due to the nature of the device from which it was sent.
I bookmarked this Reuters article about a month ago. It discusses the impact that modern casual conversation has had on the disappearance of hyphens from words (16,000 words to be exact) that previously used them. The newest edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary shows words that had at one time included hyphens, such as cry-baby, pot-belly, and ice-cream, to now read crybaby, pot belly, and ice cream. The reasons for this are simple: the dominance of informal language has led people to question the use of hyphens. People aren’t sure how to use them or even what their purpose is, so they just leave them out. Do you think someone is really going to correct another person’s misuse of a hyphen on a blog, or a text message, or even an email? (By the way, does “email” have a hyphen? I’ve seen it both ways.) Eventually over time, the hyphen has become unnecessary in many situations. Now that’s not to say there isn’t a purpose for hyphens. As Angus Stevenson, editor of the Shorter OED, the sixth edition of which was published in September pointed out, “twenty-odd people came to the party” is different than “twenty odd people came to the party.” I can’t help wondering, though, if we’re going to see words like “LOL,” and “BTW” in the same Shorter OED anytime soon.