Social media and text messaging is a rapidly evolving area that has writing at its heart. The English used online has evolved equally rapidly to meet the demands of platforms like Facebook and Twitter, with social media rewarding short and direct messages designed to grab attention.
Fortunately, the same tips found throughout this book are as true in social media as they are anywhere else: clear and simple language will help you stick to limited word counts and present the most accessible messages online.
There are practices to watch out for when writing on social media platforms, however, which you may encounter other writers using. The first is the use of unconventional abbreviations, either in the wide range of acronyms used for commonly understood ideas (such as LOL for laughing out loud), or colloquial words that might have only been found in spoken English before.
Being exposed to informal writing from all over the world, you may also find word usage and unconventional grammar that is not found in dictionaries or textbooks. In some cases this is merely regional English, being used flexibly by different people as it always has been, but in other cases this language has emerged through online communities.
The method of understanding is no different to writing in any other field, however; read widely and you will get an idea of how particular words and phrases are used, no matter how unusual they may seem.
To a certain degree, writing online is more relaxed, as accuracy is less expected, particularly in more light-hearted social media spheres. However, it is important to remember that what you post online is often public and recorded.
You want to present yourself in the best possible light, at all times, as the things you write may be read in many years’ time, so do try to maintain high standards.
For the most effective communication, always try to understand where other writers come from, and who you are writing for. As with all writing, start with the conventions that work – being clear, simple and accurate – and as you move towards fluency in social media, pay close attention to the conventions being used on your chosen platform.
Even if you don’t find many variations in language, you are bound to find new vocabulary and new conventions that you need to continually study, as these concepts will continue to change.
As social media is a rapidly changing area, it is worth noting that the fundamentals of English writing can be affected by trends and innovations in the media being used. Text messages and communication through other, short-form platforms, may lead to abbreviated language with unique and unusual greetings and farewells (including, for example, the use of initials or a kiss (x) to signify the end of a message).
The use of images is also an important aspect of social media, as images become more readily available and easily shared. Images can take the place of entire messages on social media, for example through the use of emojis or animated GIFs to demonstrate a reaction.
Finally, punctuation rules may be relaxed or even heavily modified depending on the social media platform. Some online platforms restrict punctuation use, so you may find the available punctuation is used creatively.
You may also find text with no punctuation, for example when people write with hashtags. Hashtags (#) are widely used to create a label that expresses a topic, category, or some kind of commentary to accompany a message or other media.
The text following a hashtag, no matter how long, usually has no punctuation, meaning many words can run together:
- Watch out for hashtags #withlotsofwordswrittentogether