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Twenglish Police: The self appointed Twitter Scolds

published on: NYTimes


JOHN CUSACK tweets with his iPhone and, much like the characters he plays, his style is fast and loose. “I’m pretty new to it, and if there’s a spell check on an iPhone, I can’t find it,” he said by telephone. “So I basically get in the general ballpark and tweet it.” Consequently, Mr. Cusack has birthed strange words like “breakfasy” and “hippocrite” and has given a more literary title to his new movie: “Hot Tub Tome Machine.” Most of his followers ignore the gaffes. But a vocal minority abuse him about it nonstop, telling the star that as much as they liked “The Sure Thing,” his grammar and spelling sure stink. “If you’re going to be political, maybe learn how to spell Pakistan, and all words in general,” wrote one supposed fan. “The vitriol was so intense that at first I didn’t think they were serious,” Mr. Cusack said. “Because, like, who would care?” They do. A small but vocal subculture has emerged on Twitter of grammar and taste vigilantes who spend their time policing other people’s tweets — celebrities and nobodies alike. These are people who build their own algorithms to sniff out Twitter messages that are distasteful to them — tweets with typos or flawed grammar, or written in ALLCAPS — and then send scolding notes to the offenders. They see themselves as the guardians of an emerging behavior code: Twetiquette. “It would be kind of nice if people cleaned up their grammar a little bit and typed in lowercase, and made the Internet a little bit smarter,” said one of them, Nate Fanaro, a 28-year-old computer programmer in Buffalo, whose Twitter handle is CapsCop. Last October, Mr. Fanaro wrote a simple program that detects tweets written in capital letters and automatically sends one of several snappy responses, like “This isn’t MySpace so maybe you should turn your caps lock off.” So far, he has issued more than 130,000 of these helpful reminders, including at least 205 to one particular user, a woman in Singapore. (Oddly, with little effect.) “Some people don’t really understand that it’s just not good Internet etiquette” to type in all capital letters, Mr. Fanaro said.

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