old people really need to learn how to text accurately to the mood they’re trying to represent like my boss texted me wondering when my semester is over so she can start scheduling me more hours and i was like my finals are done the 15th! And she texts back “Yay for you….” how the fuck am i supposed to interpret that besides passive aggressive
Someone needs to do a linguistic study on people over 50 and how they use the ellipsis. It’s FASCINATING. I never know the mood they’re trying to convey.
I actually thought for a long time that texting just made my mother cranky. But then I watched my sister send her a funny text, and my mother was laughing her ass off. But her actual texted response?
Like, she had actual goddamn tears in her eyes, and that was what she considered an appropriate reply to the joke.I just marvelled for a minute like ‘what the actual hell?’ and eventually asked my mom a few questions. I didn’t want to make her feel defensive or self-conscious or anything, it just kind of blew my mind, and I wanted to know what she was thinking.
Turns out that she’s using the ellipsis the same way I would use a dash, and also to create ‘more space between words’ because it ‘just looks better to her’. Also, that I tend to perceive an ellipsis as an innate ‘downswing’, sort of like the opposite of the upswing you get when you ask a question, but she doesn’t. And that she never uses exclamation marks, because all her teachers basically drilled it into her that exclamation marks were horrible things that made you sound stupid and/or aggressive.
So whereas I might sent a response that looked something like:
“Yay! That sounds great - where are we meeting?”
My mother, whilst meaning the exact same thing, would go:
‘Yay. That sounds great… where are we meeting?”
And when I look at both of those texts, mine reads like ‘happy/approval’ to my eye, whereas my mother’s looks flat. Positive phrasing delivered in a completely flat tone of voice is almost always sarcastic when spoken aloud, so written down, it looks sarcastic or passive-aggressive.
On the reverse, my mother thinks my texts look, in her words, ‘ditzy’ and ‘loud’. She actually expressed confusion, because she knows I write and she thinks that I write well when I’m constructing prose, and she, apparently, could never understand why I ‘wrote like an airhead who never learned proper English’ in all my texts. It led to an interesting discussion on conversational text. Texting and text-based chatting are, relatively, still pretty new, and my mother’s generation by and large didn’t grow up writing things down in real-time conversations. The closest equivalent would be passing notes in class, and that almost never went on for as long as a text conversation might. But letters had been largely supplanted by telephones at that point, so ‘conversational writing’ was not a thing she had to master.
So whereas people around my age or younger tend to text like we’re scripting our own dialogue and need to convey the right intonations, my mom writes her texts like she’s expecting her Eighth grade English teacher to come and mark them in red pen. She has learned that proper punctuation and mistakes are more acceptable, but when she considers putting effort into how she’s writing, it’s always the lines of making it more formal or technically correct, and not along the lines of ‘how would this sound if you said it out loud?’
I was hired to give a workshop on workplace communication to a group of VPs for a big international shipping company. Most were white men over 50, with a few women and people of colour and exactly one millenial, a woman of about 30.
The workshop focused on written communication. They all agreed that they preferred face to face interactions, and the reason given was that there were so many messages and attitudes that could only be conveyed verbally.
One exercise we did was to look at a few samples of emails and discuss what messages were contained that the writer might not have been aware of, or that could be interpreted the wrong way.
It soon became apparent that the person who could draw the most information from these emails was the youngest person there, who was reading not just for content but for tone, mood, attitude, and so on, so that an email that struck the older men as inocuous came across to her as incredibly rude.
After several long discussions, we came to the conclusion that written communication is potentially just as rich in nuance as verbal communication is, and the younger members of their team are much more fluent in those nuances than they are. Not only that, but they are often not aware that writing in that way is a second language for their supervisors and managers, so they draw messages about their managers’ feelings that the managers themselves didn’t even know you could convey in writing, and certainly didn’t intend to send.
I liken this to when younger generations develop accents that are different from their parents’ and grandparents’, often due to better opportunities to travel, and exposure to new media (like TV). Only more pronounced, in this case, because we actually use this new media to interact.
Tl;dr: millenials are sorcerers who are slowly taking over the world and frankly this xenial can’t wait.
I guess it depends on the writer (or texter in this sense). I have seen older people’s texts that make me seem like they are screaming and younger people’s text they seem like either they keep talking without using punctuation to let them “take a breath” or their tone seems indecisive. I guess if you put more of your feelings into an email or text, it shows. If texting isn’t really your true form of communication, then the tone of the text may seem awkward.