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To defriend or unfriend, that is the question

Telstra News

Posted on November 7, 2011

4 min read

As social media projects manager and grammar nerd I am often asked about emerging trends in language and how to use ‘defriend’ correctly, when the answer is that it’s not a real word, it can lead to interesting discussions about the English language.

In fact I find it quite amazing that social networks have impacted our lives so much, in the way we interact and communicate, but it has changed the English language to an extent; the way we speak, spell and write. To unfriend or defriend is a classic case in point.logo-blog-content-youtube

With that in mind I asked our Intranet Librarian and fellow grammarian to do a piece in our publisher’s *newsletter on grammar and emerging trends in language around social media.

The outcome could not have been more interesting and so I found myself compelled to share it with you. Read on, I hope you might learn a thing or two.

Case

  • Internet/Intranet – are proper nouns and as such are capitalised. If you are referring to a group of ‘intranets’ – it becomes a noun and loses the capitalisation.
  • World Wide Web – is a pronoun and is capitalised
  • website – one word, lowercase
  • wiki – lowercase

Hyphens

  • email – no hyphen
  • e-reader, e-learning – use a hyphen
  • location-based – use a hyphen
  • podcast – one word

Facing Facebook

Facebook refers ONLY to the Facebook application – as such every variation starts with a capital F, no hyphens.
logo-blog-content-facebook

  • John loves to Facebook with his sons.
  • I’ve logged into Facebook for the very last time.
  • Rory enjoys Facebooking with his true friends.

When the following words are used in a Facebook context:

  • like, unlike – they should appear in quotes (“like” button) or capitalized (the post had 300 Likes) when it’s unclear its referring to Facebook
  • wall – lowercase
  • news feed – two words, lowercase
  • friend, defriend, unfriend, fan – lowercase, all of these are used as nouns or verbs, but note defriend and unfriend are not actually real words.

Twitter (n.), tweet (n.) and tweet (v.)

  • Twitter the noun should always be capitalized.
      logo-blog-content-twitter_newbird_blue

    • When was your last activity on Twitter?
  • Tweet the noun is used to refer to posted content. It is in lowercase.
    • Richard posted a tweet about CrowdSupport.
  • Tweet the verb is the act of posting content and should also be lowercase.
    • Richard continually tweeted about all the upgrades.

Tense Tweeting – Let’s look at how the verb ‘tweet’ is used with ‘tenses’.

  • Present tense – tweet – “Today I tweet”.
  • Present Progressive Tense – tweeting – “I am currently tweeting grammar tips”.
  • Past Tense – tweeted – “Yesterday I tweeted”.
  • Past Progressive Tense – tweeting – “I was tweeting prior to the power outage”.
  • Future – tweet – “Tomorrow I will tweet”.
  • Future Progressive Tense – tweeting – “I will be tweeting on that subject every day next month”.

The ‘Twitterati World’ is relatively new, and as such is still being defined – this means, the language is still in a state of flux waiting to settle.

At the moment, not only can you Twitter or tweet as a verb, but the people who are doing the tweeting can be called everything from twits, tweeters, tweeps, to twitterers and the Twitterati (refering to the elite with millions of followers). Eventually one will rise to the top and that term will become the sanctioned word.

logo-blog-content-diggMy suggestion – use the one you and your potential audience is most comfortable with. All of the following Twitter terms are lowercase:

  • follow
  • unfollow
  • @reply
  • retweet
  • hashtag
  • stream
  • link shortener – two words
  • trending
  • crowdsourcing – one word

Google (n.) and google (v.)

  • Google is capitalised as a noun, since it refers to the company.
  • To google is a verb and is not capitalised.

Other Social Networks

All of these social networks are written as follows:

  • LinkedIn
  • YouTube
  • Myspace
  • logo-blog-content-flickr

  • Flickr
  • Yahoo!
  • Digg
  • Microsoft
  • Yammer

All this language trickery reminds me of a pre-Google, famous word puzzle that bent my noodle for ages until I finally discovered the truth behind it, perhaps I can bend your mind with this passing thought too?

No google cheating!

Think of words ending in “-gry”. “Angry” and “hungry” are two of them. There are only three words in the English language. What is the third word?
The word is something that everyone uses every day. If you have listened carefully, I have already told you what it is.

*Most of the research comes from Wikipedia, Merriam-Webster dictionary, Oxford dictionary, Macquarie Dictionary and Associated Press Stylebook.

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