It was sort of interesting to learn a little while ago that people have decided to start attaching huge significance to whether or not a sentence in a text or chat or other short message ends in a period. Sort of.

Is that the most noticeable development in punctuation though

Not "Is that the most noticeable development in punctuation, though?" If I were really trying to ask a question, I would have put in a comma, and more importantly, a question mark, inviting someone to reply. But the fussiness of the people being unfussy about the use of periods has worn me out.

So instead, I am expressing something short of a question, a question to which I already know the answer, and about which I am a little bit weary.

There is an answer to everything now, after all. If you have a real question, you can just type it into the search box. Or you can publish it on the internet and have a bunch of people answer it for you, in various overwrought or overbearing tones, correctly or incorrectly.

So what are you going to do

You are going to do that, right there. I am, anyway. As an Old, I have mostly stuck with capitalization and orthography across media and platforms, long past the point where most people have dropped them. I still mostly feel like a jackass if I type "i."

But this particular innovation, the missing question mark, feels different. It creates a genuinely altered tone. It works well on Twitter:

The writer is making a joke. He does not care if you think he's wrong or not.

Here, the missing question mark can be taken as tacit recognition of the heated and long-running arguments on the internet over whether or not passengers should recline their seats on airplanes. This resembles that controversy, only you are not exactly being asked to weigh in.

The definitive usage is probably:

What now

"What now?"—the fully inquisitive form—implies engagement with the crisis being discussed. An alert has registered; the limbic system is kicking in. Tell me what the problem is, so that I may act on it.

"What now" already contains the answer: the same old shit, obvs. We both know that the glass portals in our pockets are pouring out a constant churn of things we could try to be newly agitated about. So I am skipping past alarm and offering to share in the details of your resignation and despair. In this usage (or non-usage), the missing question mark has a perverse intimacy: I care enough not to have to perform caring.

What if I don't know you or like you though

Then, it achieves the opposite effect. I'm not asking you a question, because I don't care what you have to say. This is also a good time to stop using the shift key. Not even one little muscle of my hands is going to make a move to encourage you to reply.

get it


[Image by Jim Cooke]