You’re…your: The problem with hybrid speech-text communication


Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Call me a pedant, but I notice when Muck Rack writes “hoards” (of employees) rather than “hordes”. Or when an editor sends a text message about taking up the “reigns” (of a new post) rather than “reins”. Or when a university teacher emails a breezy festive salutation, hoping “your all well” rather than “you’re all well”.

They should all know better, one would think, considering they’re in the business of words and the accurate transmission of that intangible thing – ideas.

But the lack of linguistic precision is acquiring pandemic force. It’s troubling and I’m not alone in blaming social media and text messaging for the declining emphasis on grammar, punctuation and spelling.

We are living in a new age of speech-text hybrid. While everyone is, by any measure, writing more – texting, tweeting, posting on Facebook and Instagram – the style resembles speech rather than written communication. People write texts and posts much as they speak – there are lots of sentence fragments, currently popular abbreviations (LOL, OMG) and non-standard spellings (burdae). Punctuation is often regarded as an irrelevance. What need of an apostrophe to distinguish in a text between “your” and “you’re” when both sound the same? Why emphasise that the venue we will meet at is “Queen’s” College, Oxford, not “Queens’” College, Cambridge? [The first was named after one queen; the second for two!]

Why deploy the possessive apostrophe at all? Apart from pedanticism, many might say it has little use. Certainly, we don’t hear apostrophes in speech, but then nor do we need to – the context is often enough to convey meaning. In writing, it is harder to get the gist of things without the guardrails of punctuation and grammar.


Or, as my brother-in-law points out, “Let us eat, Grandma”;“Let us eat Grandma”. Grammar can save lives!