why i write “i” & a defense of emoticons :)

So this is a little off the main subject, but i got an email recently from a friend of mine, decrying that my blog articles are full of “typos.” i was aghast; i work really hard to proofread everything i post before i post it, and, being an English major in college, i pride myself on my proofreading skills.

So investigating further, the “typos” he was complaining about where the fact that i lower-case all my “i”s and often close parenthesis with :), which, as you can see, my blog software translates into an emoticon, which no longer looks like an end parenthesis at all.

He went on to lambast me about how my articles, full of “typos” distract him from the content of my articles and went so far as to say that he, as my loyal reader, deserved better.

So, okay, i thought i would try to explain myself, then throw myself at your mercy. 🙂

So the idea behind not capitalizing “i”, for me, it’s just about being a check on my pride. Why do i feel it’s necessary to capitalize “i”? In German, all nouns are capitalized, but in English, we choose which nouns to capitalize, which is why we call them proper nouns. And what do proper nouns consist of? Our names and the personal pronouns that refer to us. Why? i decided that it’s egocentric, and so when i write in less formal circumstances, say emails to friends or posts to my blog, i don’t capitalize my name or the personal pronoun that refers to me, “i.”

My friend also went on to say that (and here’ i’ll quote, but leave his name out to protect the guilty :):

I understand that a lot of people in the world seem to have acquired the disease of using Emoticons. Heck, I think I used an Emoticon once, myself.
But Sir…we must also raise the standards. We are trying to help people understand that there ARE greater ways to behave, to think, to treat other people.

Wow. interesting. i could go a lot of directions with this, but for now, i want to stay focused. 🙂

Like i said, i was an English major in college… and it was there that i learned to appreciate the idea of “usage,” which means that, as language evolves, and given that the purpose of language is to communicate, it will change, and needs to be able to change.

For example, did you know that the reason why the English language is one of the hardest languages to learn, due to the fact that it has so many exceptions, is because an old crotchety British guy decided to write down a codex to state the “proper” way of speaking English. For example, when you want to refer to an undetermined person, you have to refer to them as a “he.” Mr. old crotchety British guy. Usage would dictate that, as in many other languages, when referring to an indeterminate person you use the plural pronoun, here “they.” But mr. old crotchety British guy decided that it was “improper” to use the plural pronoun when you were referring to one person, and therefore must use “he” instead, whether that person was known to be a “he” or not. Fast forward to the woman’s rights era, when it was realized that referring to undetermined people as “he” was sexist. So what now? We’re stuck with writing “he or she” or putting in a disclaimer in the front of our book to say that our usage of “he” to refer to an undetermined person isn’t meant to be sexist. You can thank old crotchety British guy for that.

Anyway, the reason i bring all this up is that i was, i’ll admit it, a bit put off by the statement that emoticons are a disease, and we need to keep ourselves to higher standards. That smacks of old crotchety British guy to me.

Millions, i would say maybe billions, of emoticons are whizzing through the electronic ether of our world right now in text messages. Why? Because they help people communicate–the goal of language. If they did not, people would not use them.

i can’t tell you how many times i’ve included mr. smiley face in an email. Why? Because emails, often written in a hurry, tend to sound quite terse to the naked eye, despite the intention behind the sending of said email. So how to fix? To make sure that mr. short email is read with the intended emotional content, rather than content that might be read into the email by someone having a bad day? The solution is elegant, simple, and effective: stick in mr. smiley face somewhere.

Okay, anyway, so that’s my story… after pleading my case, since we live in a democracy, i thought i’d put it to a vote: if smiley faces and lower-case “i”s are too distracting, and prevent me from communicating my higher message, i’ll gladly give them up.

What do you think?

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16 Responses to why i write “i” & a defense of emoticons :)

  1. Ted Lemon says:

    I think you should stop personifying Mr. Emoticon, unless you’re willing to capitalize correctly.

    🙂

  2. amy says:

    keep the i’s& the : ) ‘s.

    the i ‘s have it

    & if you put a space between colon & parentheses it shouldn’t make a face of it.

  3. Andrea Lemon says:

    I don’t have a problem with your usage, though I would argue that you should capitalize “I” when it’s at the beginning of a sentence.

    Right there with ya on the emoticons.

  4. Manny says:

    No problem with the emoticons. I have a preference for capital “I.” BTW, did that last “.” belong inside the quotes?

    • ericbrinkman says:

      i’m not sure which one you mean, but usually periods go inside the quote marks. Although maybe this is something that should change… it causes problems when the thing you’re putting in the quote markes is to define a proper noun; then sometimes it’s unclear if the punctuation is part of the name or not. For example, if i typed “Wham!” is “Wham!” the name of the thing or should it be “Wham” and the exclamation point is there for emphasis?

  5. Holger says:

    As Lama Marut often says: Englisch is my second language, but I don`t have a first one.. 😉 So be patient with yourself and use it as it fits your needs…

  6. Guy says:

    I too, like you said, think the emoticon is a brilliant way to increase the channel richness when writing an e-mail that can easily misunderstood. It’s a win-win, you remove the likelihood that they are probably going to interpret your tone as something other than :), and at the same time it also enforces to them that you are feeling 🙂 towards them.

    I give You 🙂 🙂 :), for such an awesome blog series.

    Thanks for the actions you do :).

  7. adontai says:

    i think that you communicate very elegantly, and personally think that some may be missing the point by focusing on minutia. this is only my opinion though. i also must admit that i personally struggle with grammar and proper writing.

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