OP/ED: Is, "OMG, you made me LOL," the new English standard?

Kyra Hoggan
By Kyra Hoggan
December 6th, 2011

 It occurred to me, today, that I’m not taking optimal advantage of my comparatively new medium, the Internet.

Trained as a traditional print journalist, I’m not accustomed to asking questions of my readership – in my old paradigm of print news, replies, when they came, took too long to receive and publish, and were generally penned by only a vocal handful of readers. The same vocal handful, regardless the story or subject material, over and over again, ad nauseum.  But it’s a brave new world, and this new medium is infinitely more interactive, so I’d like your opinion, Cherished Readers, on an issue I’ve been mulling for months now.  It has to do with online vernacular (you know, LOL, smiley faces :), etc).  Now, as a purist, I would never in life use that vernacular in a straight news story, any more than I’d say someone ‘passed away’ when, in fact, what they did was ‘die’. News should not be prettied up – news should be bare fact, the interpretation of which is left to the readers.  But what about columns, and other op/ed work in which the writer is supposed to communicate something of themselves?  Is it disrespectful and discrediting to use lol or :), even if that communicates your thoughts and intent more effectively – or is it disrespectful and discrediting not to, given the medium?  As a purist, I have to admit that every time I hear a teenaged girl shriek, “OMG!” in a valley-girl accent, I have to fight a compelling urge to thrust Yale brochures at her and beg that she consider an alternate life’s path.  That being said, the way the most rigid among us uses language today would horrify purists of old – saying just, “Please,” instead of, “If it pleases you,” for example. I know there are many of my generation of writers who are disgusted by my use of italics, even in op/ed material, because they were taught there’s no place for italics in a newspaper – and what kind of heretic would ever want to, anyway? LOL.  When you scrape away the textbooks and tradition, the mores both building and broken, the rules that have been engrained over generations for reasons that have, some of them, been obsolete for years … push aside all that, and is not the true purpose of any writing to communicate? Even cursing has its place in some writing – like Stephen King said in On Writing (a must-read, BTW), writing about an undereducated, 16-year-old derrick worker who drops a 50-lb lugnut on his foot and screams out, “Fudge!” or “Flowers!” is the worst kind of inauthenticity, because it presumes the reader is …well, stupid. Better to be honest, is King’s motto – so should the same apply to columnists?  Is it not our goal, in writing a column, to share not just our ideas but something of ourselves and our personalities, as well? I’m a smiley-face kind of person, at heart … so would it discredit my paper to show that, or is it dishonest not to?  I really don’t have an answer to that one – I imagine that in 50 years, even the Queen Mum will be chucking out LOLs and ROTFLs like they’re High English. The great joy of the English language is that it’s not static – it’s a fluid thing, breathing and alive, that changes as we do.  But in the interim, I’d love to know what you think – would using internet vernacular perhaps better engage a disaffected youth by speaking their language? Is it more genuine and communicative? Or would it make dubious, or even outright discredit,  a news resource upon which more and more people have come to rely, and thus be poor journalism at best, and flat-out irresponsible at worst?  You tell me. :)P  

Categories: GeneralIssuesOp/Ed


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