The written word is a pretty impressive piece of technology. Have you ever really thought about it? Our ability to transfer ideas across time and distance using written language is incredibly useful!
What’s really interesting about written language is that it’s an evolving medium. We tend to take for granted that language has all kinds of useful constructs like punctuation, consistent spelling, and spacing. In fact, the more pedantic among us get upset when these features are missing. However, these haven’t always been features of writing. According to Wikipedia, the first known punctuation marks were used in around 900 B.C.
Dictionaries (i.e. standards of spelling the same word the same way every time) have been around since at least 2300 B.C. but standardized spelling has fallen in and out of favor throughout that time.
The point being that over time people have invented new technology to improve upon the technology of writing. Punctuation, spacing, and spelling all make the written word more consistent and coherent and better able to accomplish its purpose of communicating a message clearly.
So what is the next “punctuation?” What’s the next invention that will make writing better at its core intention? Is there anything on the horizon that will revolutionize the basics of writing? Maybe it’s already happened but hasn’t garnered mass-appeal yet? Maybe it’s emoticons!
Though not accepted as a formal part of writing, emoticons do allow an author to convey information less ambiguously. They all the writer to express the emotional state intended by the statement. Think of how much more sense our old writings would make if they included the sorts of emotional cues that the spoken word had!
“And Jesus said, let he who is without sin cast the first stone. >:)”
“To be, or not to be; that is the question. :’(“
Sure, it looks goofy now, but I bet that the early Greeks found themselves annoyedly trying to wipe all those stray dots and marks off their parchments too.
Or maybe it’s something else. Who knows?