Are Twitter and Facebook Messing with Your Style?

It seems that everyone’s talking about how social media is changing spelling and grammar, and style is no exception.

HipsterI’m a big fan of the “The Chicago Manual of Style” and social media, but sometimes the two just don’t mix. Have you ever tried to Tweet about a book or write a Facebook wall post that included a foreign word? If so, you know what I’m talking about. While hashtags and at signs (@) abound, there is no such thing as italics in the social media world.

When in need, you could always just swap italics for quotation marks. They’re clear, not too ugly (unlike all caps), and available on all platforms. They seem like the logical choice. In fact, Grammar Girl recently polled her readers on this issue and found that most use quotations marks instead of italics to set off titles on Twitter and Facebook.

But the switch raises a few questions. How do you distinguish between a magazine and an article, an album and a song, a TV series and a single episode? Will readers think you’re being ironic? What about consistency? Or is social media forcing us to create a completely separate style guide?

One option is to follow “The Yahoo Style Guide’s” suggestion to use italics, as needed, for print copy and use quotations marks for online copy. It remains to be seen if “Chicago” will adapt their rules to accommodate this issue.

Imagine if there were a social network that didn’t allow punctuation. What would you do?

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