Have a thought, type it up on the extension of your hand now known as the smartphone and hit “send”. The time from thought to tweet seems to be getting smaller every day, but just because we have a public way of sharing our every idea or opinion doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take a few minutes to re-read the message. While we may feel empowered to trim punctuation on social media messages due to character limits, we shouldn’t abandon it altogether. For clarity, punctuation still matters.
During the Redskins vs. Giants game this past weekend, one Facebook post stood out to me: “RESIGN COOLEY!!!” I thought to myself, “This doesn’t make sense! Chris Cooley hasn’t been a member of the Washington Redskins since he was released on Aug. 28! How can he resign?”
The next morning, the same individual posted “COOLEY IS BACK!!! #CC47,” showing his excitement that the team’s tight end had indeed been reported to re-sign with the Redskins. Only then did I realize that the individual must have meant “RE-SIGN COOLEY!” in his original post, not “resign.” These two words use the exact same letters, but without that critical hyphen have opposite meanings.
Social media messages are often driven by two things: reaction and emotion. These can sometimes overshadow our pursuit of clarity in how our audience, friends, and followers may interpret the words we use. I challenge you to double-check your punctuation or even check your post for homophones; your call to action may not be what you thought.