• Analytical
  • Concrete Examples
  • Engaging


In a few decades, the internet transformed how people use informal written language. Linguist Gretchen McCulloch discusses how technology and the human urge to convey emotion and presence have created novel forms of online expression. Using her own writing and other lively examples, McCulloch mindfully considers the historical context of her linguistic practice. Drawing on research, she explains how chat, weird typography, emoji and memes emerged to shape web culture. Whether online lingo baffles you or netspeak is your native tongue, you’ll gain insight into how and why language evolves.

Because of the internet, many more people use informal writing than ever before.

McCulloch describes the ways that the internet brought an explosion of informal written language in the form of email, texts, chats and social media posts. This huge, easy-to-access treasure trove of information illuminates for McCulloch, as a linguist, how people now use language and how that usage has changed over time.

The author notes that formal writing tends to be abstract and impersonal, while informal writing is intensely personal. Internet writers use tools like emoji and GIFs to provide more embodied and emotional communication. “Rather than try to compete with words on their own turf,” the author writes, “emoji added a whole new system to represent a whole other layer of meaning.”

About the Author

Gretchen McCulloch co-hosts the Lingthusiasm podcast. She studies the language of the internet and writes about it for Wired and for the blog All Things Linguistic

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