As a grammar snob, I believe punctuation is a very vital part of writing. And while I recognize that many internet users have a hard time finding the shift button to capitalize (but oddly enough, not the caps lock button), and don’t even know what a comma is, punctuation is an imperative part of any decent internet experience. Unless you’re on I Can Has Cheezburger. Then it is excused. Otherwise, I believe punctuation adds nuance and meaning to writing.
Famous and over-used example:
The panda eats shoots and leaves.
The panda eats, shoots, and leaves. (Oh! The blood and carnage!)
The Nebraska Supreme Court is currently hearing oral arguments on a case involving the the enticement of a “15-year-old girl”, who was actually a police investigator. When he attempted to break it off in the two months before he met her, she responded with emoticons of angry faces and kissing. The reason the Nebraska Supreme Court is hearing the case is because the jury was not instructed that they could find him not guilty if they believed the police investigator actually entraped James Pischel (the man who went to prison).
George Love, with Nebraska’s Attorney General’s Office, said the jury did not need instructions on entrapment because the emoticon is only a form of punctuation. If we consider it to be part of government inducement, then an exclamation point must be part of entrapment too, Love said.
With my above example, punctuation matters. A lot. Because writing can often be vague, punctuation – and emoticons – really help clarify the meaning. I know I’ve gotten more than a few text messages where a wink would have clarified the situation immensely. Describing an emoticon as a punctuation should not diminish it’s impact, but strengthen it. Also, in due respect to all of my English teachers, grammar and punctuation are really, really important. Or maybe pandas are just really violent.