Word usage and grammar are moving targets—apparently, that can’t be helped. Yes, we have books (and editors) who insist on punctuating this way or capitalizing that way. But then we have the AP Stylebook every year modifying its long-held stance on such constructions as Web site vs. website or e-mail vs. email (I must have missed AP’s email back in March.) Looking forward to the new year, we can only speculate on the ways our writing will need to change in 2012—and I’m certainly not going to pass up the chance to do so.
My predictions for the top 10 revisions that we’ll be making in our writing in 2012:
- References to “devices” (we used to call them computers, tablets and smartphones) will disappear, replaced by just “D.” Asking a friend, “What’s your D?” will convey a shorthand request for an individual’s social nickname; preferred device and, therefore, preferred method of communication (text, Facebook message, tweet, email, etc.).
- Smilies will be replaced by keystrokes that resemble the facial expressions of favorite personalities from comics, TV, movies or politics.
- Television script writers will rebel against the expanding intrusion of product placement and the need to insert descriptions of the features offered by the hero’s automobile, a phenomenon that has become even more annoying since the days of Lisa Catera. Instead, the characters will be sharing passages from the writer’s own books (a la Stephen J. Cannell).
- A new punctuation mark will appear—the OMG—to indicate surprise fused with either despair or delight, depending on the context. It will look like this: Ω (the Greek omega symbol). This will be the first of many such marks to replace tired text and chat abbreviations, like TTYL and IMHO. (Let’s face it—typing all these abbreviations takes way too much time, when a simple punctuation mark would do.)
- Barack Obama will insist on being called “Barry” to make his social media handles easier to spell correctly.
- Occupy Silicon Valley protestors will invade the headquarters of dozens of technology companies, reprogramming all their devices to irrevocably delete the terms “leverage,” “robust” and “on-premise” from every document, email and memo.
- “Video on demand” will become a quaint term. Just about all video programming will be on demand, with scheduled broadcasts reserved for newscasts, sports events and reality talent shows. When we write “video” or “TV program,” readers will assume it’s on demand unless otherwise specified.
- “Click” as a reference to operating a computer (“Transfer funds with just one click”) will be replaced by “snap,” as gestures and other natural-user-interface methods transform the computer mouse into a relic.
- Even more words will be fused together to eliminate the inexplicably dreaded space between the terms in compound nouns. Thus, following in the footsteps of “smartphone” and “crowdsourcing,” we can anticipate writing “schoolsurfing” (evaluating colleges by examining their websites) and “cloudcramming” (attempting to store an unreasonably large amount of data in a limited allotment of space online).
- The Oxford English Dictionary will recognize two new verbs. The first, in a tribute, is “to jobs,” meaning to add one more thing—surprising and important in nature—after concluding a long description. The second is “to spectaculate,” meaning to speculate on a product’s likely success, only to see it become a spectacular failure (see Google Wave, Facebook email, HP TouchPad, Qwikster).
It’s a presidential year—what are your candidates for the ways we’ll elect to change our writing terminology in 2012?
— Steve Friedman is the director of marketing communications at Airfoil Public Relations, a high tech PR agency with offices in Detroit and Silicon Valley.