OMG! How The Internet Changed The Way You Write

July 2019Words by Mr Jim Merrett

Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by Ms Gretchen McCulloch. Image courtesy of Penguin Random House

We might live in an era of hyperbole, but it is difficult to overstate the impact the internet has had on the way we write. Not since the introduction of movable type by Mr Johannes Gutenberg in 1439 has a shift in technology taken such a hold of the English language. The original printing revolution didn’t truly get into its stride until the 18th century, but advent of the internet has influenced almost every aspect of human life remarkably quickly.

“Over a few short years in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the internet became mainstream,” says Ms Gretchen McCulloch in her book Because Internet, which explores how the digital world has transformed our mother tongue. “Internet access was no longer exclusive to tech companies, universities and the homes of a few geeky people.” Assuming you’re old enough to remember the screech of a dial-up modem, you’ll know what we’re talking about.

If the original printing press eventually brought with it the introduction of dictionaries and the standardisation of language, controlled by a relative few, Ms McCulloch notes that, in the age of social media, the evolution of language is far more democratic, led by, as she puts it, “normal people.” In other words, anyone with access to the internet.