Gretchen McCulloch wrote a great article about the need for freedom of expression in the language we write. She says that by making sure we don’t come down to hard on creative new formulations of language online in favour of being grammatically correct, we let people convey how they feel more accurately than if they were using proper grammar. I fundamentally agree. Play with language, it’s yours, not the other way around. Try new shit out. Aside from finding more nuanced ways to express yourself, finding new ways to connect with people, you’ll have some goddamned fun, which is all any of us can ask for these days.
McCulloch makes it sound a little like people are going around correcting ironic capitalisations or tildes for flourish or ‘y.i.k.e.s.’ formatting. I don’t know about that. Maybe people are, but I’m a bit sceptical – it seems like most people would understand that it’s deliberately ungrammatical. On the flip side, my experience is that online the tendency is to lean towards rabid asshole first, and calm consideration of other people’s quirks and liberties later. So who knows, maybe there are roving gangs of grammar correctors bashing Gen Z over the head with ‘Thou shalt not capitalise ‘brand’, this isn’t German!’ Or maybe she’s referring to the crop of editorials, think pieces and general wibbling that sprouts every few years as people decry the death of the English language. Do you remember the collective spasm people had when ‘selfie’ was included in the dictionary? Or how much worse it was when ‘<3’ was included? Hell, I think even I got in on that. What I’m saying, in a roundabout way, is ‘It’s not clear to me, and I’d like to know more’.
Read it. It’s good.
This bit stood out to me:
“In other words, we’ve been learning to write in ways that communicate our tone of voice, not just our mastery of rules. We’ve been learning to see writing not as a way of asserting our intellectual superiority, but as a way of listening to one another better. We’ve been learning to write not for power, but for love.”
P.S. Thinking about writing and expressing yourself in language has frustrated me. Just thinking about how I write has got me tying myself in knots about ‘my voice’, which turns out to be a hodgepodge miss-assembly of drab pseudo-professional knowledge work babble and calcified academic. When I sit down to write it feels like someone else’s goddamn voice is coming out these days and the whole thing makes me fucking itch. That’s another post, for another day, definitely. Keep your eyes peeled.
P.p.s. Sorry, not sorry about the title, I’m not even sure what I was aiming for there. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯