Is It Okay to Use “Text Speak” in Your Social Media Postings?

The short version: No.

The long answer: No, but… (read on)

(I’m going to have a grumpy-old-man moment this morning, so bear with me.)

We’ve all done it:

  • Written “U” instead “you.”
  • Typed “srsly” instead of “seriously” in a tweet.
  • Used emojis, acronyms, or abbreviations in Facebook messages.

And yes, I have, too. For the most part, in private.

The ongoing demolition of written English is a source of constant dismay to those of us who are paid to use it well. Therefore, it’s a point of professional pride for me not to type like a hyperactive teenager in my public electronic pronouncements unless in jest. That means I use proper capitalization, correct spelling, and periods to end my sentences in my tweets and social media postings. None of this requires more than my high school education, and I’ve internalized it to such a degree that I’ll have an argument with myself about using “gotta” vs. “got to,” because my social media postings are public and, given how employers screen people online now, part of my work.

“Oh, for gosh sakes, Leahy, lighten up!” I can hear some of you saying.

With all due respect: oh, for gosh sakes, no.

I get paid too much to let myself slack off simply because I’m using a new medium.

The first time we faced a word-constrained medium for sending words was the telegraph and telegram system, where charges for sending messages across town or across the country were based on a minimum word count of ten words. As a result, people learned, as Mark Twain put it, that “brevity is the soul of wit” and so restricted even important messages to no more than ten words. Even so, until 2006, people for the most part managed to use full words and complete sentences in those word-constrained dispatches, perhaps because they had to be dictated to a third party.

Yes, yes, language evolves over time. I read the argument all the time, sometimes from people who can’t spell or use proper grammar in the first place. That’s an easy excuse, a copout, to use a colloquialism. If you’ve learned how to use the language and you’re representing yourself, an employer, or a customer, use it properly. If the customer wants to be cute and use emojis and OMG, LOL, or ROTFLs, bully for them. They’re hip, hot, and happening. Hold your nose and cash the check. Do you have to sign your name to it, though?

What you do in your personal messages or texts, of course, is your own business. No one’s paying you to write those. Nine times out of ten (a totally made-up statistic, given that people forward things), no one besides your intended recipient is reading them. But when social media rises to the level of public discourse and you dare to declare yourself a good writer, do you want your various feeds or postings to read like a squirrel ran across your keyboard? There is no harm in raising the standards of the electronic neighborhood, any more than there is harm in speaking correctly out in public. People can and do judge us by the words we use…written or spoken. Use some good ones.

Here endeth the rant.

About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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5 Responses to Is It Okay to Use “Text Speak” in Your Social Media Postings?

  1. I can’t even get myself to use text speak in text messages. It’s just how I’m wired.

  2. Apeetha says:

    I am very much like you. I have recently started using emojis when I text friends, but that’s because it’s private.

    But, I recently read an article (link below) about the evolution of language. Which had made me a little worried now – is ‘proper’ writing becoming obsolete? Maybe not in all contexts (legal, technical, literature), but you get the drift? What are your thoughts?

    • Bart Leahy says:

      I saw another article this week that said using a period makes people take you more seriously, so I’m not certain I take internet cultural comments seriously. 😏

  3. Nice Article, Thanks for sharing me.

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