Punctuation is Not Dead; It Has Evolved

Andrea Oh
by Andrea Oh
Punctuation is Not Dead; It Has Evolved
How do you read the following sentence in your head?
“Please revert to me by EOD…”
How about this one?
“I’ll get it done ASAP!! Thank you!!”

Or what about:

  1. Okay.
  2. Ok can
  3. OkAy??!!
  4. ~ okaaaay ~
You get the point. Once upon a time, the rules of punctuation were simple and finite. These little squiggles told you where a sentence ended or started, when a person was being quoted, or if a writer was credible enough to know when a semicolon should be used; punctuation could arguably be called more of a science than an art.

Has Laziness Won?

It might be easy to point towards the rise of social media as the reason for increasingly unconventional punctuation usage. Yet, decades prior, language purists had already been sounding the death knell for the English language. In fact, after 18 years of championing possessive punctuation, the UK-based Apostrophe Protection Society disbanded in 2019. The late founder, a former copy editor, claimed that “laziness had won“. The problem with punctuation, or lack thereof, has been around for a long time.

With that knowledge, should we really view missing punctuation marks as a lowering of standards?

There are certainly times when abiding by conventional punctuation rules serve an important purpose. For instance, there is a very big difference between an email that you had “re-sent”, as opposed to an email that you “resent”. Yet, as much as dashes get dropped and the line between “you’re” and “your” gets blurry, the new generation of language adds as much as it removes punctuation from sentences.
With the amount of time we spend online, it only makes sense that our language use has adapted to accommodate non-verbal expressions, such as body language or tone of voice. Determining the purpose of punctuation, in any given context, is just as important as knowing the conventional standards for punctuation use.

Leaving a Mark

Whether we call it laziness, efficiency, or something else altogether, unconventional punctuation usage is here to stay.
For Distilleri, this is especially relevant to two aspects of agency life: the way we work together, and the work we create for clients. With the Zoom office becoming a part of working life, meeting new colleagues is likely to occur through a Teams or Slack message. Understanding why your colleague might end all of their sentences with full stops (“K.”) or why they might choose not to use any punctuation (“can send him” – wait, was that a question or an instruction?) can clear up a lot of unnecessary miscommunication, and even lead to new insights.
This also translates into the work we create for clients. In the digital generation, language might be our playground, but we still play by the rules of clarity and consistency. As communication evolves, we are looking forward to doing what we do best: staying on top of trends, and distilling them into solutions that add value for businesses.
Which is really important…because ending sentences on ellipses…just makes people wonder if you have anything else to say…
Or you could end with an exclamation mark too! This shows you’re excited about the work you’re going to create! But not too many, please!