Oral Health Group

The New Writing: Raunchy or Rapid?

March 1, 2005
by Janice Goodman, DDS

New Uses for * and <>:

“What a *day* I’ve had!”


“So have !”

New Abbreviations:

LOL = laugh out loud.

GTG/G2G = got to go.

LMAO = laugh my ass off.

TTYL = talk to you later.

BRB = be right back.

OMG = oh my god.

NP = no problem.

POS = parent over shoulder.

NTM, N2M = not too much.

NM = not much.

ROTFL = rolling on the floor laughing.

PC = private conversation.

JKS = jokes.

IJK = inside joke.

FYI = for your information.

JW = just wondering.

W/E = whatever.

BTW = by the way.


New Symbols:

– Hold “shift” key and push ‘:’ and then ‘)’ = 🙂

– Hold “shift” key and push ‘:’ and then ‘(‘ = 🙁

🙂 = happy

🙁 = sad

:’-( = crying

:”-( = crying a lot

:-/ = mixed up

<:-) = dunce

:-[ = pouting

😮 = surprised

If someone gets uppity that their generation has invented a whole new language of “computerspeak”, point out the passage by Charles Dickens written for the infant Pip in Great Expectations (translation c/o Lynne Truss):


My dear Jo,

I hope you are quite well. I hope I shall soon be able to teach you Joe-and then we shall be so glad. And when I am appreciated to you, Joe:what larks! Believe me, in affection,


When someone recommends to you something that they read, and they tell you that it was, “well written”, what does that mean to you? Does it mean that it was articulated clearly, was it written in a fashion that was enjoyable to read, or, did the author simply get his punctuation right? I think that a lot of people have become insecure about writing these days: how else can you explain a grammar book, Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss, being the #1 bestseller in England, and a bestseller since it arrived at Indigo/Chapters?

Language and writing are experiencing a revolution as they adapt to the popular medium. Historically, writing evolved most by the influence of certain individuals and inventions. Originally, writing was meant to be read/sung out loud and not to oneself. Now, a whole generation of younger kids (subadults–new word!), are taking writing to a level that it’s never been before. What’s more, is that these kids, who would have watched six hours per day of TV in the previous generation, are now trading that leisure time for writing and reading on the computer or some other recent invention. A lot of these kids learned their writing skills in school by the “new” methods of sounding out and experimenting with writing, rather than rote memorizing of spelling and grammar rules. They were expected to fine-tune their knowledge as they developed, by reading properly written material. The problem is this: unless you’re reading “good” literature, most writing these days is adapted to the medium it is in, and is unlikely to be “grammatically correct”. Books are no longer the main vehicle for the written word and I doubt that they ever will be again. Don’t expect newspapers to be a good influence either: they’ve practically stopped using the semicolon and they link sentences in the most unconventional of fashions. For example, take the newspaper headline: “Suicide Rate Amongst English Teachers Expected to Exceed that of Dentists, Related to Pain and Suffering Inflicted, Expect Major Epidemics.” (Looks like the type of grammar you would expect in a dental chart). Most people would understand what the paper was communicating, and it is now the standard of newspaper writing, but, an English teacher would have to fail a 5th grader if they wrote it for not being grammatically correct.

Today, anyone with an opinion can type their message on a keyboard (using quasi-correct grammar) and get it on the Internet for free, and in seconds reach an unlimited audience. When most writers compose a proper article or book, they isolate themselves so that they can focus on what they write and possibly rewrite several drafts of it, until they feel it is well written. Then, it often goes to an editor, or peer review, to be corrected and then ultimately gets to print, which costs money, so it should have some worth to get to hard copy. We do not have the luxury of time, to check if what we have written is grammatically correct, nor are we really confident about what is grammatically correct anymore. New symbols and expressions are surfacing and the old ones are being used in new ways. (i.e. *, dot, …, – , _, / ) We are less afraid of being embarrassed by making mistakes, (if spellcheck and grammarcheck didn’t pick it up, it’s probably OK), and are more likely to try and create our own personal style in writing that will express ourselves in a unique and efficient way. It is pretty well acceptable to make up words and new spellings as you go along, providing that the person on the receiving end gets the message that you meant to articulate to them (and is laughing with you and not at you).

These IT influences may not have a profound effect on dentistry, but they will have many subtle effects, that will influence our profession. Firstly, if you use a keyboard rather that pen for patient notes, you’d better be careful what you write, because now everyone can actually read your previously ineligible notes. (That includes the RCDS and its lawyers, of course). Almost gone are the little handwritten post cards from the referring specialist: now you get full page report letters…the specialist only has to type a few words into their template to give you this long letter, but then you have to spend time figuring out what is significant in them. Furthermore, they clog up your patient’s chart and you have to unfold all of them every time you look for a specific one. Those digital photos are gorgeous, but now we have to photocopy them to send them to insurance companies for predeterminations. Abstracts are being read by a larger audience than ever before, and one wonders how the “strict” rules of writing scientific papers and literature will be affected by all of this.

Grammarians are up in arms about the hyphen being over used –I say that writing is all about personal style: everyone should use punctuation marks in the coolest of ways in order to get their messages across; trying to express themselves in the clearest and most efficient fashion. Poetic license is not just for poets, it’s for dentists too.OH

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