Tamsin Constable

You can’t write waffle in a Tweet

Online social media is exposing just how bad many people are at writing, according to an article in Saturday’s Guardian newspaper (Work section).

More people are actually writing (using mobile phones, Twitter, websites, Facebook etc). This trend reveals just how bad many people are at writing, the article proposes.

I’m not sure that’s a fair conclusion. I think that many people regard texts, tweets, emails and Facebook updates not as writing – but as transcribed speech. Slang writing, perhaps.

In real speech, we’re all perfectly capable of working out when it’s appropriate to speak using casual language (eg with friends or family), and when more formal speech is required (eg in an interview or presentation).

Who’s to say we’re not perfectly capable of telling the difference in terms of the context of our writing? Just because someone sends a loosely punctuated text message or an all-lowercase email to a friend doesn’t mean they don’t know how to use commas or capitals.

I do, though, agree that bad writing is everywhere – particularly in formal documents. Online social media is a different beast. It is neither speech, nor writing, but something new, born out of both.

And there’s no room for waffle or jargon in a 160-character Twitter message.

Feel free to ‘Like’, re-tweet or @ me.

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