I’ve always been a writer, such that I’ve always had an awareness of what I’m writing above what I think is probably normal. It all began when I was quite young. Being from a broken home, a large portion of my relationship with my mom was conducted by mail. We put a lot of efforts into our correspondence, which was great fun, and my mom even bought me a book to help my inspiration. I might even still have the book, now that I think about it. It didn’t stop with my mom, though. When she moved not so long ago, she mailed me a box that was filled with letters I had received in return for letters sent to quite a large number of people, some of whom I had completely forgot. I was quite impressed with myself for the achievement. Today, I can barely get a reply to a text message (exaggeration!).
My attention to the written word continued into my professional life, where much of my business is done through email with people on the other side of the world. From the start, I made a point of carefully constructing my missives to be as clear as possible to the readers. While they are all English speakers, they aren’t American so there is always a chance for confusion. One person I have worked with over the years writes (especially in the earlier years) in extensive abbreviations, a hold over from the telex days when every character counted, literally. It took me some time to decipher, and so in response I pledged to myself to write out every single word always. I’ll admit I’ve gotten a bit lax. There are a few words I always abbreviate. But I still make a point of writing complete sentences, with proper punctuation and capitalization (as a result, my personal emails are practically devoid of these things). I pride myself in it. I have therefore been chagrined this week by the discovery my fingers have become quite lazy.
I was issued a new computer at work this week and have spent some time customizing my settings. I’m generally opposed to auto-correct, and have turned it off. What I discovered, however, is that on my old computer, I still had the “capitalize the first letter of sentences” turned on. Now, it seems at least half the time, I’ve been having to go back and fix my capital letters! Since when did it become so difficult to hold down the Shift key? Am I really in that much of a hurry? It has brought a new found awareness to my typing. I read an article recently about the growing disuse of periods as a signal of sincerity in typed messages. I pray I don’t fall victim to this herd mentality. It would really get my goat to have my behaviors defined by generational norms (I’m fairly safe as I’m not quite young enough to fit into the millennial range).
What does this all mean? Well, it means I’ll be paying more attention to my punctuation, in the traditional sense. So, if you get a text from me that ends with a period, there’s no need to read anything into it. When I’m being sarcastic, you’ll know it by the look on my face.