What a Hashtag!

Our network language system evolves at a faster rate than language itself does. As in any language, the evolution occurs with use. New words are added to our term base, modifications and adaptations clear their way through as new technologies and tendencies become more familiar to us all. One clear example is the wide use of social media and all the terminology involved. Back in the day, texting gave way to the use of acronyms and shortening of words; and as a result we were left with “LOL,” “BYOB,” “IMHO,” among others. They kept evolving and becoming more permanent in our arsenal of terms. Everyday new ways of expressing ourselves through writing seem to appear, some to stay with us for good, some fall into oblivion.

Nowadays, one common denominator amongst all social media text is the use of hashtags. They first appeared alongside Twitter©. Their use was very specific, to create content, a way to make reference to a subject or topic so that everyone talking about that specific subject could be grouped, or they could find related articles or tweets about it, hence, starting trends. Little by little the Hashtag got spread out through all means of written communication. WhatsApp© messages, Facebook©, Instagram© etc., they are all on it. But the use of hashtags doesn’t seem to be confined to the written word, they have become part of our conversations too -as we hear people say “hashtag” something or other when they talk, for example: “…and then, I fell asleep during the interview hashtag never getting a job.” I must say, regarding this use, I am #TotallyAgainstIt.

Luckily, there is still a useful use for hashtags. Again, we go back to the one which started it all, the Tweety. It seems to be the only accepted place for it if you’re a language purist. One example can be taken from the “Me Too” campaign during the Oscars. It started as actress Alyssa Milano called to action against sexual harassment through a tweet back in October, 2017. She asked her followers to reply with the phrase “me too” if they had been victims of sexual harassment. Pretty soon, it became a trend, more and more women came forward and the hashtag “#MeToo” came to life being part of any and every tweet regarding the subject.

But now, do we really know how to properly write a hashtag? First of all, don’t just group a bunch of words together for no reason. The hashtag needs a purpose. Second, don’t use the same hashtag in every tweet, no matter if you are promoting something, people will eventually get tired of it. And third, and this is the important one: Capitalize! Instead of using “#metoo” we should use “#MeToo” (#CamelCaseIsImportant). This is exemplary useful if the hashtag is long, making it easier to read.

If you decide to “create” a hashtag in a different language, take some time to search for the proper way of doing it. For example, if you write in Spanish, remember that accent marks are part of the language. Trust me and #AcentúaTuTuit.

It is necessary to get our heads around these “new” ways of communicating. As linguists, we need to be #UpToDateForOurClients being able to provide the best outcome possible from our projects.