The Beauty of Punctuation in Text Messages

The Beauty of Punctuation in Text Messages

As a ’90s-born college student, I’ve lived through every form of text message – from chatspeak to long sentences with actual punctuation – (wow! what a thing to tell my kids some day…). And I’ve noticed a couple quirks of the punctuation in texts these days that sparked my fancy.

The Period

Considering that nowadays the period has become anything but redundant in its usage, tacking a period on to the end of a sentence tends to give more meaning to it. For instance, if you do include it, it adds a touch of finality, even anger, to the text. But left off, it could even suggest what an ellipses suggests: a non-conclusion, an open ending.

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It varies, of course, on the texter. If one person regularly includes a period at the end of each sentence, and then suddenly doesn’t (and, of course, they are one of the awesome few that actually re-reads their texts – omitting spelling or grammar errors in the process ~so annoying to get those, but then I have been termed a “Grammar Nazi”) it’s probable that there is some sort of hidden meaning in it. Or they’re just tired/unobservant.

Ellipses

These three little dots, I’ve noticed – especially in social media / popular memes, have given texts a sexual undertone. (Depending on context, of course.) More broadly, it lends the sense that the textee must read between the lines to find the meaning of the text. Or it could imply, as it does in formal literature, merely a silence or a thoughtful tone.

Tilde
I picked up this cute little text-punctuation from a friend of mine. I’m not sure the correct way to use it – if indeed there is one – but I usually stick it at the beginning of a little phrase that is somehow connected to the sentence before it.

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I’ve heard, however, that if tacked on to the end of a sentence (sans period), it mostly provides an affectation of cuteness. (It apparently migrated to America from Japan.) Of course, it also has its uses an approximation, a negation (for Computer Science nerds ;), or even, according to UrbanDictionary, a way to censor sexually explicit words.

Multiple Marks (Exclamation, Question, etc.)

For some reason, it’s always annoying to find this type of punctuation in published short stories or novels. Perhaps it seems repetitive or uneducated. But I found it’s used rather a lot in text messages without being overbearingly agitating. One cannot text, for instance, “‘Ohmigosh!’ he said excitedly.” You must instead write, “Ohmigosh!!!!” (Well I suppose you could text the first one, but I can’t promise you won’t come off as rather pretentious. If that’s your thing, more power to you. She laughs and winks as though she herself doesn’t do this.)

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Question Marks

I actually find it super interesting how leaving question marks off a sentence that is meant to be a question, or adding a question mark to a statement, can effect the meaning of the sentence. Much like, in literature, writing:

“You’re leaving?” she said.

or even

“He’s dying, isn’t he.”

lends so much more meaning to each line.

It works the same way in text messages and it’s beautiful. Leaving off a question mark to what is obviously a question adds an air of indifference or resignation, I think, while adding a question mark to an obvious statement lends doubt and the need to confirm the statement. (That is at its most basic level.)

The Shy and the Quiet: Why We Are Who We Are

The Shy and the Quiet: Why We Are Who We Are

To anyone who knows me off-web, up-front style, I am a very shy and quiet person who has the capacity to talk (quite a bit, in fact) when with a small group of close friends or academic/on-the-job buddies. Early in my college career, I believed I had some form of social anxiety and perhaps I still do, but pushing myself to conquer those fears has lessened its effects significantly. Still, through my college years I have been ruminating on why I either do not talk to others or, when I do talk, why I say very little.

First, and foremost: The Art of Conversation

I absolutely adore conversation. Especially the fast-paced back-and-forth of witty, intelligent people. Now, I’m not saying that I am neither witty nor intelligent, I am merely saying that when it comes to conversation, I am at least lacking. (I’m a writer, not a speaker.) And when in an academic setting (or a writer’s workshop, for instance), my small, hesitant voice seems like the last thing I want to contribute to what could potentially be a wonderful, invigorating conversation. I love to listen and to learn from watching others’ example.

And, I have to admit, part of my silence is selfish. I already know what I think about the subject. What I want to know is what other people think. A few people have told me in the past that they see me as a very un-opinionated person. Which isn’t true. I have a lot of opinions. I just tend not to share them, mostly because I like to hear other peoples’ opinions. (Which, indeed, makes it difficult to communicate well with others.)

I write. That’s what I do. When I was very young and my parents would urge me to talk with them about various things (problems, boyfriends, life, etc.), I would always write them a letter. I wouldn’t talk to them about it, and they wouldn’t force me to (which, in hindsight, is probably one of the major reasons that I am shy). I hardly spoke. I listened. And then made all of the opinions, beliefs, arguments inside my own head.

Sometimes it’s just easier and more rewarding, for me at least, to listen respectfully and say little. Great art has come from merely listening to conversation. I remember in my first Creative Writing class, one of our assignments was to listen and transcribe a conversation between at least two people. (Much along the lines of Hemingway’s, “Hills Like White Elephants”, adding in setting, description, etc. where necessary.) Reading everyone’s stories in class, it was amazing how much could be brought to a story just through dialogue (in this case, real, not-made-up dialogue). The art of conversation, ladies and gents, is beautiful.

Second: Lack of Self-Confidence

Too many people these days seem to open their mouths and spout little that is either important or intelligent. There’s usually at least one person every semester that mortifies me with their words. (Not in a bad way, I don’t necessarily judge them for it; I would merely hate to be that person and not realize.) The number of people (you know, the stubborn idiot type) has largely decreased over the years since elementary school, but I noticed it from that young age. Whether it’s a ploy to gain attention or merely a lack of realization, asking the “stupid” questions or giving the stupid answers seemed to subsequently put me off from making those same mistakes, rather than stepping up and giving actually good statements. Hence, the title of this section.

Third: Less About Speaking, More About the Initial Takeover of the Conversation

I hate interrupting people. See Section One. Good conversation is not only beautiful but also hard to come by. Plus, I feel bad for cutting off other people. There’s always that slightly annoyed, slightly hurt, slightly surprised look left on the other person’s face, even if it disappears completely seconds afterward. For the most part, I’m probably overthinking the impact that my words or actions will have on others. They probably don’t care quite as much as I do. Still, though, the act of joining a conversation is mildly more scary than the actual conversing.

 

There ends my musings for today. Undoubtedly there will be more.
Got opinions? I’d love to hear them (on this topic especially!). Comment below and maybe we can start our own wonderful conversation.

If you’ve ever felt the pangs of social anxiety, I recently read an article on Lifehacker: “How I Got Over Being Shy and Embraced Talking to People I Don’t Know” that really resonated with me. Lifehacker has, actually, quite a few articles on the subject. And if your shyness or anxiety is beginning to impact your social, academic, or work life, there’s nothing wrong with visiting a counsellor or seeking out help from others. There’s always someone out there who cares about you.

May your life have many creased pages!

‘Manda

In Memory of the Old Days

In Memory of the Old Days

“I can’t stand it to think my life is going so fast and I’m not really living it.”
– Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

 

In Memory of the Old Days

In the old days the couples’ house was quaint. Black and white pictures lined the hall. A small television, overflowing bookshelf, and stacked newspapers served as entertainment. The house was quiet. The couple lived quietly, ate slowly, and enjoyed the view of the lake from the porch. Then one day the desk in the study was replaced by a bassinet. The child grew older and the life outside changed as she did. Look-alike houses were built around the lake. Two more children were born. The wife stored the small tv in the attic, soon replaced by a flat-screen television, dvd player, and Wii console. An electric fire was installed where once real flames had burned through logs collected from the nearby forest. The twin boys were loud. Their elder sister was anything but old-fashioned.

From the porch, all that could be seen was other backyards. Children played in the backyards with their phones in their pockets and a mother watching them from the screen doorway.

Twenty years had passed and now there was only a small lake to remind Jack of the old days. He sat at the kitchen table and stirred his coffee methodically, though it was black and half empty. Caroline sat across from him. Her fingers traced grooves in the table, long worn down by use and age. She knew that if she followed the groove to the edge of the table, she would cut herself on it.

“Do you have to go?” she asked.

He turned a page of the newspaper, black residue coming off on his fingertips.

Every Sunday, early in the morning, he left the house and walked down to the lake, a fishing pole, writing pad, and home-made lunch making the journey with him. He stayed there until the sun sank low over the hills and he could no longer see the bobber afloat in the water. Some days he stayed later. The lake was calm and had but one fishing pier. He sat alone on the pier, feeling the gaze of the neighbors upon him as he baited his line and cast it out, opened his writing pad and began his weekly routine.

“I go every Sunday,” he said.

“Stay. Just this once. The boys will be awake soon and your daughter is coming back home for the week. She misses you.”

He closed the newspaper, folding it until it would fit in his pack.

“You know I do this every week, Caroline. Anna will still be here tomorrow.” He stirred his coffee once more, finished the dregs, and rose from the chair. He crossed to the living room, retrieved his pack, and stuffed the newspaper inside.

Caroline usually slept in these mornings and woke as the twin boys did to come yawning down the stairs after Jack had left. She made them breakfast, watched over them as they finished homework and sat for hours in front of the television. Some days, she would call her daughter and ask how college was going. But reading took up most of her day. She would sit with a book in her lap and one eye on the clock in the back corner. The day went by slowly as she waited for her husband to return. Some days he brought fish with him.

Today she had forced herself awake when he left the bed. No alarm rang to alert him of the time, yet she was sure he left at the same time each Sunday. Fighting off sleep, she had padded down the hall after him and watched him make coffee from the table. Perhaps he would stay today, if she asked.

“Don’t you want to be here?” she asked.

Jack, his pack thrown over his shoulder, stared at her from the next room. She felt his gaze as if for the first time in years.

He stepped toward her. His palm touched against her cheek. He leaned in as though to kiss her and Caroline closed her eyes. She felt his breath against her forehead and then a quick peck of his lips. The air felt cool against that spot when he drew back.

When she opened her eyes, he was gone.