This little premise is probably something that could be served better as a brief question on Twitter, but I figured I would pose a more elaborate version on the off-chance I get interesting responses beyond the shelf life of a tweet.
It’s undeniable that the language of social media has injected itself into our common vernacular, to the point that I can say something like “the shelf life of a tweet” without turning any heads — Just imaging saying that to someone from the 1800s!
However, I’m not particularly concerned about social media terms in real life, general use.
My inquiry is aimed toward how people use an at sign (@) or hashtags (#) ((or the pound sign, though that’s not how I’ll be using it)) in the world of Twitter reading.
That probably sounds like dumb technobabble, so let me explain further.
Obviously the at sign and hashtags serve functional purposes in the world of Twitter. The prior acts as a mention to draw attention to individuals, while the latter compiles specific topics for analytics on what might be popular.
They are essential elements one must know when using the service to get the most out of it.
With brief research I found this hilariously academic and sterile handbook “tips” page for utilizing these two elements of Twitter. It reminded me that some people are not hooked into this stupid website yet and might not understand its digital language.
Outside of their mechanical functionality, both symbols have audible names so they can be discussed in the abstract. Even if I sometimes just mime mid-air finger drawings that vaguely resembles the “@” symbol during real life interactions.
Other symbols in our language have similar mechanical functionality while also being named for discussion.
The last sentenced ended with a period, which either sits silently due to our shared understanding of what it represents (an end point) or can be audibly referred to for emphasis.
Period. End of story.
Yet the period has existed for hundreds of years, affording it a place in the general lexicon that is taught in every high school English class. We all, I assume, have the same understanding of the period’s uses in the manner I have described.
I’m just not sure whether or not the same thing exists for modern pseudo-punctuation.
It does seem common enough for people to say the word “hashtag” before mentioning the word that follows.
But is it the same for the at sign?
There is a concept called the “Inner Reading Voice” that I guarantee you’re all familiar with. While you read this blog post to yourself, you’re likely reading it — as if out loud — in your own head.
For those of you who frequent Twitter as often as I do, I have to ask: How does your Inner Reading Voice handle an at sign in mentions?
I’ve always found that I struggle with two different approaches, and I’d like to know whether I’m crazy.
- Completely ignore the symbol’s existence and continue the sentence as normal?
- Actually read the at sign out loud as if it is an extra word in the sentence?
This distinction seems small, but I would wager it makes a big difference grammatically.
For instance, this is the Tweet I wrote to promote my recent Umbrella Academy review.
Did you read this:
- “… I just couldn’t get Netflix’s Umbrella Academy out of my head.”
- “… I just couldn’t get at Netflix’s Umbrella Academy out of my head.”
For this sentence I wager it would not make sense to include the ‘at’ verbally.
However, let’s say I wrote half a dozen tweets asking Netflix to start streaming Umbrella Academy season 2 already. I get tired of throwing all my complaints at the service and express it in a further tweet.
How would you write that?
- “I’m tired of throwing all these tweets at @netflix, why won’t they answer?!”
- “I’m tired of throwing all these tweets @netflix, why won’t they answer?!”
Either could potentially work. Either you read the “@” as an extra word or ignore the “@” as a purely mechanical necessity when mentioning Netflix.
As someone who tries to sounding grammatically correct in my open publications, I suppose the usage I would consider correct depends on context.
If there would be an ‘at’ naturally before the at sign, I might be inclined to leave it out at risk of sounding repetitive.
However, if no at would naturally preceed the symbol, I would just ignore that at sign.
Thus my question remains: How do you handle the @ when you’re reading through Twitter? Are you like me, depending on context? Or do you adamantly always/never read the symbol out loud?
Science demands your compliance in this unofficial study.
Featured Image courtesy of Post of Moldova via Wikimedia Commons