When you put some thought into it, language of the Internet has some quite interesting aspects. The focus of communication is not only centred around the technical aspect but on new communication situations which are emerging every day along with new language verities and somewhat of new rules.
First of all, what can be noticed are the nature and possibilities of this medium. The main and maybe the only limitation is the equipment. However, users are overcoming the drawbacks on daily basis by relying greatly on the use of modern technologies. Just look at the WiFi coverage and availability which was not even anticipated a decade ago.
The language of the Internet is influenced by spoken and written language to a smaller or greater extent. Also, it is influenced by users and their goals, expectations and needs. The communication situation, which varies from chatrooms, discussion groups (forums), emails, websites and MUDs (Multi-User Dungeon/Dimension/Domain), relies on computer screen, keyboard and lately increasingly on smartphones, tablets and iPads following new rules and conventions.
Identity in chatrooms. Unlike in emails (especially work accounts) the identity here is almost never or at least rarely real. The first feature is the nick which you will, unlike in real life, choose by yourself. There is a possibility for users to present themselves and their identity in a similar or completely different way than in reality. In situations like these, people get to know one another by the written word, and this written word also becomes their identity.
Orthography in chatrooms. As far as the punctuation is concerned, it is almost never used. Commas are used rarely; the same goes for full stops, while the question mark and exclamation mark serve for the purposes of exaggerating and attracting attention. Sentences never begin with capital letters and whole words capitalized serve for shouting. Of course, misspellings, typos and respellings are characteristic here.
misspelling: fecetiously instead of facetiously
typos: wantig instead of wanting
respellings: enuf instead of enough
aboot instead of about
New conventions, lexis and grammar in chatrooms. Words, phrases and sentences are being abbreviated according to some new rules which follow sound and spelling connections. Vowels are being omitted: n – and, nvm – nevermind, msg – message as well as parts of words, such as in b’day – birthday. Numbers are put instead of letters: any1 – anyone, l8r – later and words are subjects to acronymization: pmji – pardon me jumping in, brbr – be right back.
As far as lexis is concerned, slang is desired, swearing is used in both negative and positive contexts while emoticons serve for emphasizing emotions and reflecting non-verbal communication.
Grammar is usually simple, not very important but a subject to quick communication where there is not much time for reading or writing. Personal pronouns, auxiliaries and articles tend to be omitted and lexical words guessed from the context.
Language in chatrooms is less structured and it can be characterized as being somewhere in between the spoken and the written language, but more on the spoken side.
Discussion groups. Discussion groups have more participants than chatrooms and they represent some kind of communities. For the start, identities are more stable, topics are defined, organized and serious, while messages are displayed chronologically with the proper use of orthography, capital letters, formal lexis and more complex sentences. Ellipsis and digressions are not common.
E-mails. When talking about e-mails, the formality of the language depends on the purpose. If you are using e-mails for work, the language should be formal, starting with “Dear Sir/Madam” and ending with a greeting and signature. Spelling, punctuation and grammar should always be proper. Of course, if communicating with your friends, the choice is yours.
When choosing the type of communication, you need to consider the purpose of your writing, the function and the communication situation. If not following the given rules, you will be seen as not just ignorant but inconsiderate, rude and careless. Keep in mind that in cases where the medium of communication is the Internet and when the first and only thing your reader will see is your word, that word becomes your identity and first impression they will create about you.