I’m not sure if the apostrophe is the place where I would choose to fight the last, lonely battle for some semblance of grammatical order in the universe, but it appears to be the battle that is before us.
Don’t blame technology. Blame laziness. Sure, much of the world’s conversation has been truncated to 140- or 160-character blasts – is that such a bad thing? – but I text and Tweet like a fiend, and I find a way to properly punctuate. I even compose complete sentences. Shakespeare told us brevity is the soul of wit, and it’s still true.
But the young are taking over, and in their haste “I’m” becomes “Im” because, heaven knows, the half-nanosecond it takes to type an apostrophe is out of the question. Since when did the young have such a keen sense of time’s quick passing?
Usually cuz for because, Id for I’d and idk for I don’t know are decipherable enough, but I would offer one dictum: If it takes me the reader longer to decode your message than it would take for you the typer to simply spell it out, then something meaningful has been lost.
I would also suggest that “two,” “too” and “to” are three different words with entirely different meanings and uses, though in text-world “2” can suffice for all three, and usually it almost works. It’s much the same with “there,” “their” and “they’re,” and until Facebook invents some sort of auto-what-they-meant-correct we will suffer through a lot of confusing conversation.
(Auto-correct, like any other tool, is only as effective as the diligence of the user. I recently got a text with a passing reference to al-Qaida but that was auto-corrected to al-Quesadilla. I texted back: Don’t you ever, you know, read over a message before sending it? Of course not, came the reply. Again – young people, new paradigm, no time.)
Dont think there isnt a problem. Sure, “dont” is just the further contraction of a contraction, and that’s usually harmless, but you have to know the boundaries. “Id” could be short for “I’d,” as in “I would,” but “id” also is a real word from the ever-joyful world of psychology, and don’t count on the capital “I” for a meaningful distinction between the two. Random capitalization – common nouns like dog and walnut are the usual victims – is rampant, so precise communication erodes into mush. Reading “Id” as “id” could change the meaning of your text in interesting and unintended ways.
Some argue the apostrophe is being dumped because so many people never got all of that anyway. Well, the harsh truth is language has rules, much as people despise the very idea. The rules of English are wildly flexible, but without some understood and agreed-upon rules we are soon babbling noises only understood by ourselves. The less charitable among us might suggest we’re headed in that direction already.
We are mobile and connected. We have the means to learn so much more, comment on so much more, communicate with so many more people, instantly, than we used to. But it rushes us. The Twitter feed pours in, like so many tennis balls, and we feel compelled to bash at least a few back over the net, in real time and without consulting a dictionary for proper spelling, meaning, tone, whatever. Still, we own our actions. Technology is just a scapegoat.
Jeff Fox’s Twitter adventures can be found @Jeff_Fox and @FoxEJC.