Challenging the conventions of personal correspondence: txting times for literacy snobs
Changes in the way we produce, consume and distribute personal commmunication are subtly mediating new perceptions about communication appropriateness and literacy. While not denying that ideational content is an important carrier of meaning, this paper argues that it is the changing material composition of screen based (as opposed to paper based) personal correspondence that is challenging traditional perceptions. It outlines two methodological perspectives that allow us to compare personal correspondence, such as a letter written on paper, with a text or a tweet. It then compares several different examples of personal correspondence from pre-digital and digital times in order to show how our perceptions of what constitutes effective, appropriate and literate personal correspondence are changing, and to show that the conventions around the personal textual communication of traditional letters were just a highly formalised genre – a set of snobberies shaped by the unique materialities of the literacy tools of the day.