Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Going the Long Way Around

Photo courtesy of stock.xchng
Hello, dearies! After much squinting and persuasion, your Style Maven is now sporting a new pair of glasses. The frames are lovely; the price tag was anything but. That said, I am indeed delighted to be able to see past the end of my nose again.

I blame texting.

Not for my nose, mind you. That was left up to genetics. No, it’s the new prescription; I’m certain it was caused by text messages. Those tiny little screens make things difficult enough, but when you must wade through the myriad “pls” and “ppl” and “ur” that pepper each electronic missive, I think the eyes give out in protest.

While certain acronyms and abbreviations are usually welcome (CMOS, anyone?), you would be hard-pressed to find an editor willing to give the green light to most of the slang terms found on the Internet today. Though it’s likely to be understood that pls is intended to mean please rather than Polyester Leisure Suit (thank heavens), taking the time to include those apparently tiresome vowels will win brownie points from editors and readers alike.

The Chicago Manual of Style has a lot to say about abbreviations and slang; there are nearly two pages full of reference points listed in the index. While those references focus almost exclusively on strict rules regarding technical, geographic, and medical terms, a fair amount of leeway is given to writers of fiction. Dialect and usage specific to characters and locations are recognized as useful tools for effect, although that usage admittedly falls outside the scope of the CMOS.

As language continues to grow and develop, words and usage drop in and out of favor. Electronic publishing is pushing boundaries in every direction, with novels, articles, and non-fiction pieces of all kinds cropping up online. While I don’t expect to see an entry about the proper use of adorbs in future editions of the CMOS, I’m certain that Internet slang terms will be addressed in-depth at some point.

And won’t we all be plsd about that?

Do tell! What’s your take on Internet slang? Helpful or heinous? 

Photo courtesy of Darrick Bartholomew

The Style Maven has been unable to knit for several days, thanks to an unfortunate incident involving a hammer, a bag of chocolate chips, and a recalcitrant flux capacitor. She spends her enforced leisure time in the company of books and her favorite coffee mug.


  1. I think Tweeting is a good way to practice succinct writing. Although some abreviations--- lol and thx---are becoming commonplace, others tend to trip me up. I think learning to say what you have to say in 140 characters, without a out of abreviations, is excellent training for a writer, especially in these ADD days. :-)

  2. Good one! I'm glad you're seeing better again. Text-speak gives me pause, and I wonder if our younger generation is going to be able to spell at all.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. I expect the next CMOS will change the spelling of e-books to ebooks or eBooks. It makes me sad, as I'm rather fond of the hyphen.

  5. Please forgive the erased "oops" above. Haven't quite mastered this text-talk stuff yet.

    Hll, Stl Mvn, (not sure that looks right)
    Stflng lghs nd strng at th CMOS lvs m' hppy tht ths bk's mne nd I knw hw t' mk 'se 'f 't. (Enough of this!)

    After stumbling through the previous paragraph, I have to agree with what you're saying. Abbreviations and slang come and go, but the art of good communication relies on rules and consistency. Seems some of both are lacking these days.

  6. When it's part of a fast-paced conversation among a lot of people (wherein you risk the comment you're responding to being lost in the scroll while taking the time to spell out everything) I think the internet slang is fine. When the writer has time to compose the message, it bothers me to see the short-hand

  7. I'm anal about spelling everything out (OK, almost everything--have used tnx often enough) when I text. Then again, I've probably sent fewer than 100 texts in the entire years I've had a smart phone. I got 'lost' when Google became a verb.

  8. I'm just an aspiring writer, but all the slang is really quite confusing for me. I was brought up way before the technical age and spelling, grammar and proper language was still very much in tact. Some abbreviations became common place long ago and I do well with them (pls being one of them). I figured out CMOS reading this post. Still, there are plenty of others I will probably never understand

  9. You bring up a great point. A lot of slang and abbreviations fall into disuse over the years. This is another reason to use traditional language when writing, allowing, of course, for period terms relevant to the story that give it authenticity.

  10. I'm probably one of the few people who type out all my words in text messages. Twitter, however, does sometimes require abbreviations to get one's point across.

    Loved reading this, Style Maven!


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. If a glitch is preventing you from commenting, visit our Facebook page and drop your wise words there: Blood-Red Pencil on Facebook