I'm always surprised to hear people talk about how illiterate society is becoming. Because almost all my correspondents are writers, it looks to me like standards are holding up well.
But my writer correspondents commit foolishment too, and I hereby admonish them:
• Never make a list of ideas, people, places or examples and end with, "etc." Finish the fucking list.
• Emoticons are handy ways for non-writers to let correspondents know they're joking because they're too unskilled to get this across in actual words. But if you're a professional writer about to use a 😉 or a 🙂 or a :P , you should really ask yourself, WWJD: "What would Joyce do?"
• Do you really need to use so many ellipses (my own Achilles heel, along with too many parens—and em dashes) … and four question marks???? Seriously?!?!?!?!
• And if you're ever tempted to acknowledge partway through an e-mail, "I'm rambling," scroll up to the point at which you started rambling, and erase everything below it and sign your name. Problem solved!
I realize some will find pretentious the notion that writers should hold themselves above acceptable communication conventions of non-writers, but think of this, my literary friends: What if your fond novelist dreams do come true and your letters
are published someday.
Do you want readers to find them full of frowny faces, junky parens and em dashes, hapless confessions of incoherent rambling, etc.????