Emmy Favilla, author of A World Without “Whom”: The Essential Guide to Language in the BuzzFeed Age, shared insights from her book at a session at ACES2018.
In a lively talk about the changes to the English language that have occurred in the digital age, Favilla covered the evolution of the period and textspeak.
“The period will never be exterminated,” Favilla said in a resounding reassurance of the period’s resilience.
Favilla recalled sending a short email. Keeping the period, she recalled, would maintain a sense of abruptness. Omitting the period would maintain more of an informal, conversational tone.
“The period, alas, has become a marker of stodginess,” Favilla said.
Favilla remarked on the use of other punctuation, saying, “Over-punctuation, more often than not, indicates a performance of sorts as well.”
Continuing her linguistic journey, Favilla explored the ubiquitous textspeak acronym “LOL,” short for “laugh out loud.”
In Favilla’s opinion, “lol” has retained its original meaning, but it has also metamorphosed into a nervous means of punctuation.
There is “lol,” then there is “lmao,” short for, “laughing my ass off.”
“Take the plunge into lmao territory,” Favilla advised.
“Using your best judgment, and your experience to guide you, do what you think is right and then ask other people if they agree,” she said. “If they say ‘yes,’ cool; if they say ‘no,’ work something out together that seems the most appropriate.”
Favilla also discussed the unique quirks of the Buzzfeed style guide, which she co-authored.
The Buzzfeed style guide recommends using the Oxford comma and saying “internet,” “website” and “email,” among other things.
Favilla’s slightly edgy, tattooed persona meshed well with her take on a language ever-adapting to fast-paced, technologically-driven linguistic conventions.
“I’ve always followed the rules, but from a safe distance so as not to be completely stripped of my ability to see them critically and to reshape them into what best fits the situation if need be, in the name of both practicality and fun,” Favilla said.
Header image credit: ONA USFSP/Graham Colton