The War on Smileys, LOLs and ROFLs

I read an article some time ago denouncing the excessive use of exclamation marks (not to be confused with the article I read on the lack of the use of interrobangs). His exclamatophobia was centered around the use of multiple exclamations (!!!!) in written dialogue, particularly in the informal text-speech of online chat rooms, Facebook posts and tweets. Having recently had a friend criticize my use of a single exclamation mark (at a point where I felt it entirely appropriate), I find myself in concordance with this view. Imagine yourself speaking the text you’ve written: would you, in fact, be exclaiming it?

This textual sin, of course, is secondary to the all-caps SHOUT. I shudder.

However, to the exaggerated punctuation of our linguistically declining culture I would like to add a couple more appallingly inaccurate digital metaphors. These have been banished (as much as possible) from my online vocabulary for both their lack of literacy and their overly-distended representation of reality.

I should preface this by saying that I wasn’t always so enlightened. I used to PMSL all the time, allong with ROFLing and LOLing (though my naivety was great – it was some time before someone explained to me that LOL didn’t stand for Lots Of Love; I suddenly felt quite a lot less popular). These misunderstandings are one great reason to avoid such abbreviations; at the very least, spell them out.

Do you actually roll on the floor laughing? Did you, in fact, laugh out loud at the unsurprisingly witless and crude crack your friend made after a night out on the town? Indeed, would you utter “what the f***” out loud (actually, I suppose some of you might; to each their own). (A sin you can see I haven’t yet escaped is the parenthetical). If the answer to these questions is no, why did you imply so to your friend by text or tweet? Was it a desire to appear far more energetic than you actually feel, as you sit in front of the screen at 6:45 AM desperately gulping as much caffeine as you can?

Another deliciously malevolent word-killer is the emoticon: those cringe-worthy smiles, winks, tongues and frowns that unavoidably litter our digital forums. I am not a winker; nor do I stick my tongue out on a regular basis. My frowns are significantly deeper than a slight downwards slant of the eyebrows (indeed, I find the Spock-like countenance difficult to emulate). And I certainly do not spread my mouth as wide as possible to indicate surprise; a slight raise of the eyebrows is sufficient for this.

As I have begun increasingly to write on a serious level, I’ve realized that, more than a simple expression of fun, these abbreviations and icons had begun a decline in my literary fluency. I came to the realization that there is nothing that can’t be said in words – real, genuine words – that can be expressed otherwise. When I am angry or astonished, I may judiciously use an exclamation mark. If I am taken aback, I may even take to using interrobangs. But never again (maybe) will I pepper my written dialogue with anything other than words drawn from the English dictionary (yes, I realize LOL has made its way into several reputable tomes; their downfall).

I challenge you – can you make it a week without using any of these items?

P.S. (Post Script) You are more than welcome to use LOLs and :-)s in your comments, providing their intention is ironic.

11 thoughts on “The War on Smileys, LOLs and ROFLs

  1. Ha (insert any form of punctuation here). I can make it a week, it will be rough though. I really dislike seeing multiple exclamation points, especially for advertisements on Facebook pages. It doesn’t entice like the writer probably thinks it does.

    • Good for you! And yes – I find myself equally equally put off by poorly thought-out punctuation. Particularly in a professional aspect, where the only worse sin is Comic Sans.

  2. I’ll agree on the exclamation points and use of all caps. That last one I find extremely annoying (and several systems here at work are set up to use just that). It’s hard to break out of my acronym use, however, because that’s something a group I was with back in the early 90’s was doing — yeah, way before it became popular. Smiley faces . . . well, I use those in texts and some posts as a mood indicator so folks don’t take my words the wrong way. It’s sometimes hard to interpret if I’m joking or serious. What really annoys me is using ‘u’ for ‘you’ and ‘r’ for ‘are’ — you get the point. Is it really so difficult to spell out the entire word?

    • Understood. Having said that though, I find that with the right words, the mood of the person should be apparent. For example, right now I am writing this with a slightly ironic tone (what’s that? It isn’t obvious? Perhaps a humorous parenthetical can help).

      Unnecessary abbreviations bug me. In the days of 120 character texts, it was excusable, but not in emails and posts. Twitter had this limit, but Twitter’s purpose is succinctness – not to cram in as much information as possible into those few characters.

  3. I read that exclamation point article, too!!!! 😉

    I do wink, and like the commenter before me, I do find emoticons occasionally useful in cyber-speak, but I try to avoid them in, say, my blog. (I do keep a journal in which I write to God, though, and one day I found myself inserting a smiley-face by hand. Which . . . felt a little weird even to me.)

    The LOLs and ROFLs do drive me nuts, though. I’ve never liked them. The first time I encountered LOL I asked what it was, and, having been told, my inside-my-head reaction was, “That’s completely stupid. I’m sure you’re not laughing out loud and are you telling ME to? Because it just wasn’t that funny.”

  4. I’m intensely uncomfortable with emoticons, and despise LOL of all the abbreviations in particular. I’ve never learned to use them. Occasionally I add a smiley face if someone else has sent me one first, or if I fear that my message might be misinterpreted. It would be more challenging for me to try to add one of these “hip” trends into a message than to leave them out. I need an excellent reason to butcher the language I was painstakingly taught, and I haven’t found one that satisfies me, yet. Besides, I’m not proficient enough to be a grammar or spelling nazi, and I don’t need any help losing what skill I’ve managed to gain.

    Sadly, I actually sometimes envy the people who can toss of acronyms and symbols with such ease. I worry far too much about doing it wrong (not to mention that messing with language rules always makes me queasy), and am always WAY behind the cool kids. Eventually I just decided everyone else would have to be patient with my awkwardness. I’m not afraid of computers or technology, but when suddenly everyone’s ignore case, punctuation, and basic spelling, I turn into a bit of a Scrooge. Bah humbug!

    • I’ll be honest with you — it was some time before I knew what most of these things meant (and there are a lot I still don’t get). In the end, it became more trouble than it was worth, trying to remember the right abbreviation for the right occasion.

      I’d hardly call myself a master of the English language either, but ironically having grown up in a French-speaking country and taking German at school, I learned a lot more about grammar in general than had I only ever known English.

  5. I never mind the emoticons or abbreviations. They’re functional in a world where thoughts are 140 characters or less. If you want to partake in that world, that is. If not, then it is easy to judge. Although I think judging is a little silly…but then again, I’m still involved in “that” world.

    On the other hand, what gets me is the copious use of extra letters. As in, “heyyyyyyyyy” or “kkkkk”. I don’t know if i should be saying kaaaaaaaay, or kaykaykaykaykay. anyway, my two cents. 🙂

    • Your two cents are both welcome and appreciated (glad to see you over here, by the way). I suppose the difficulty I have is living in that world of contracted expression. I’m a big fan of words, and I like to use them a lot.

      Extra letters bug me too, and I especially think it’s worth being careful with the number of Ks.

      Ultimately, to each their own — I can’t really say I’m declaring ‘war’ on emoticons, but rather explaining the reasons I have for no longer using them.

      As much as possible. 🙂

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