Caring about language details

It had to happen: regarding the nitpicky-but-fascinating spaces-after-periods thing that’s been going around, someone said “who cares” and then, predictably, “as long as the message gets across.” Or words to that effect. This is different than making fun of typographic and punctuation nitpickers (which I am cool with).

It has always been absurd to care too much about the details of literacy and language, and there has always been a class of people who go waaaay overboard, and it’s fun to tease those people. But! Not caring is the opposite failure, and far more serious: literacy goes down the drain when people do not care about how it works, and messages do not get across.

The trick with language is to care just the right amount — enough to be effective, but not so much that you drive yourself (and everyone else) nuts. (And how do you find that balance? If you can feel your knickers actually twisting when someone doesn’t hyphenate to your satisfaction, you’ve gone too far in one direction. If you catch yourself using three exclamation points in a row and replacing “you” with “u”, you’ve gone to far in the other direction.)