The introduction of the asterisk

As a proofreader, many would think that I’m averse to changes in language. But I’m not. I welcome change. While I’m not one to fully embrace txtspk, there are certain features that I enjoy and adopt.

The asterisk is one such feature. I use it in two contexts.

First, I use it to emphasise.

To quote Chandler in Friends, “could this *be* any more lame?” Underlining is now largely frowned upon given its use in hyperlinks; and bold is considered harsh. Italics has various other uses (see Friends earlier in this paragraph), and so the asterisks are a welcome addition.

I wouldn’t use them in an overly formal letter, but I regularly use them in relatively formal work-related emails. And I admit, part of me does so to invite question.

Second, I use it to indicate an action.

This one is used in online conversations to indicate what you’re doing, usually in a non-factual way. *puts kettle on* or *puts on loungin’ pants*. It’s used to evoke a sense of what you might be doing in response to some preceding comment in the conversation.

Oddly, even though it’s a reference to the first person, yourself, it’s always phrased without the subject, yet in the third person. A bit like Jimmy in Seinfeld.

I wouldn’t write this in work emails, except in an informal manner to people more savvy in Twitter and txtspk. In the main, I’d save this for a Facebook conversation or a Twitter retort.

Posted by Dan, 28 January, 2012 under Life


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