“IS IT TIME FOR AN INFORMALITY BACKCLASH?” asks WordPress’s ‘Daily Post’ blog. As a newbie here, I figured I better participate in the community rather than performing my standard real-life routine of awkwardly standing in the corner (there’s only so many times I can pretend to wipe my nose, only so many itches I can invent).
To answer the post’s question directly, I do alter my email salutations according to my subject matter. I believe that in most situations it’s better to be too formal. If I were applying for a job or whatnot, I’d prefer them to see my flowered prose as endearing – opposed to seeing informality and broken grammar as being disrespectful. If I’m writing from a place of authority, I’ll normally begin with ‘Hi’ etc. Why? I’m not sure. I guess I’m playing “cool boss”. It’s annoying though to have to consider which forms to use. When I was looking to interview YouTubers for an old website, I came into confusion. These are people who begin their videos with sayings such as ‘what’s up guys?’ – and yet I felt compelled to begin emails formally.
If I may though, I’d like to drill down a little here. The loss of formality and, to an extension, correct syntax is something that is very quickly being championed. I help with a little English magazine at school and in the last issue we had a writer who explored “alt lit” – a new genre of poetry that fully embraces grammatical practises that would normally see you be rejected from any literature journal. Whether this is due to the self publishing mechanic Tumblr and the likes allow (or perhaps a slightly more dishier rebellion against the “expected” expression and rigid English lessons) isn’t necessarily too important. What’s important is that this poetry functions as art – which seems to suggest that formality and the grammar rules some cherish aren’t relevant.
A friend can often cause a teeny part of rage to be created within me for correcting my English. The thing that gets me is that they have completely understood what I am trying to convey. This is interesting. Linguistically speaking, a mistake is a mistake. However, if the role of language is to ease communications – what happens when the language itself gets in the way of the communications? (You may need to read that a couple of times, sorry)
Salutations (and one could argue the same point for many grammar constructions etc) seem to be an over engineered part of our language. The idea of formal writing and informal writing also seems to be odd. Though English isn’t as marked out as say German (“du”, “Sie” forms), there seems to be an illogical/unnecessary construct going here. What if we just had one? We could communicate without getting panicked about “dear”s and “to”s? Well, with archaic social constructs rapidly disappearing, this seems to be happening. An informality backlash? Nah. I think we’ll all welcome it. One way of talking to everyone – one that disregards awkward, years old and out-of-date rules, and one that seems friendlier and is easier? Sounds pretty good to me.