Talking With Your Fingers

In the New York Times op-ed, “Talking With Your Fingers,” John McWhorter offers a refreshingly contrarian perspective on the decline—or not—of writing.

Keyboard technology, he notes, has made it possible to engage in “written communication with unprecedented speed,” which has given rise to a communication form “hitherto unknown to humanity: written conversation.” It’s casual and spontaneous.

If we accept e-mail and texting as a new way of talking, then their casualness with matters of case and commas is not only expected but unexceptionable.

Note that one cannot speak capital letters or punctuation.

Texting and e-mail lingo, which he marvelously describes as “fingered speech,” are the popular versions of “writing,” democratic and useful, accessible to those even without formal education. Its relation to formal writing is that of rap to Rachmaninoff; breakdance to ballet; T-shirts to waistcoats.

So, it can’t, due to its very nature, pose a threat to serious writing.

h/t: NYT


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