How We Communicate – Now & Into The Future

by | Jan 6, 2015

‘Is so funny…. How we don’t talk anymore.’

There was never a truer word spoken by Sir Cliff. Of course, in this song he was referring to an estranged lover, not the fact that the majority of us communicate via social media, text and emails these days.

Of course, he could have added:
‘Except when you view my YouTube channel, because then you will at least hear my voice.’
Although, I am not sure that would have quite fitted with the rest of the lyrics.

If you are of a certain generation and you know who Cliff Richard is, then you probably recognise the song I am referring to above and are perhaps even humming it as you read this. The rest of you might be wondering what the heck I am going on about.

I will explain…

The song popped in to my head as I was thinking about the future of copywriting and where we will be in terms of communications in ten years’ time (seriously, it did). I also came across a study by Ofcom, which found that just 3% of 12-15 year olds communicate using voice calls. The rest, of course, are texting, emailing and on social networks.

I thought about my daughter (who is ten years old). Already, she has an iPad and if she needs any information, she will automatically use it to look on-line. At present, she only has email, but in a few years, she will join the rest of the teenage population by having her own social media accounts.

In other words, all her communication and information searching will happen on-line.

In another ten years’ time, when she is all grown up (not a concept I wish to dwell on), how much will she rely on the internet and social media to gather information and share?

I should think the answer is obvious, because it is already happening today. Use of the internet is increasing year upon year. According to Ofcom, the average UK adult spends more time on-line than they do sleeping.

Let’s take an example.

Your washing machine has broken down. What is the first thing you do?

In the old days, if you didn’t already have a referral from a friend, you would reach for the Yellow Pages, look someone up and then give them a call.

Nowadays, it is more common to look someone up on line and then there is a split: some would still reach for the telephone to call someone up (according to Ofcom, 20% of the older generation still prefer to communicate by telephone), the rest would hit the contact button and send an email. You can complete the entire transaction without a single word exchanged (until the person comes to fix your machine, of course).

There may be a saturation of information on the big old World Wide Web, but without it, we would be lost. It is vital, therefore, for every company worth its salt to have an online presence and the ability to communicate with existing and potential customers.

In ten years’ time then, I expect copywriters like myself to be doing more and more digital communications. The need for companies to have quality words on those web pages is paramount and as we look to the future, this will only become more important.

What good would it do to put a leaflet or flier through my (grown up) daughter’s door? She isn’t likely to clog up a notice board with information that she might possibly, but not likely, need one day. What if that washing machine maintenance company did a leaflet drop, would she keep this information in case her own machine one day went kaput? The answer is no, of course not, because if she needs someone, she will ask her smart phone to make the call.

How would you reach out to my daughter, if you were a business seeking out potential customers?

Social engagement is the key here, I think. Platforms like Facebook can help to raise a profile via sponsored posts. Encouraging engagement through offers, giveaways and competitions will entice visitors. If you can get them to share your information, this is a statement in itself. By doing this, they are endorsing your product or brand.

If you remember, I said at the beginning that no one talks anymore. You are more likely to get a speculative or spam email than you are a cold call telesales operative. You can opt out of receiving unsolicited mail and calls but you can’t do the same for email, so those who are clever enough to avoid being put in the spam box can reach you and try to sell you just about anything. I can only foresee this becoming an even bigger problem.

With all the information that is potentially available on-line, individuals will need to develop ways of sorting and filtering so that they can see what interests them most and avoid the rest. Anyone who is interested in a company or product, is more likely to sign up to receive news about it. That way, they can control what information they receive in their in-box and avoid having to trawl through hundreds of email sales pitches. By encouraging people to sign up to your newsletter, you have an instant email list. This is nothing new, but it will become a vital way of reaching out to interested parties.

In this technological world, around 44% of Brits now have a tablet and 61% have a Smart phone. According to a study by Docmail, one in five people couldn’t recall the last time they had to write something by hand. Secondary schools rely heavily on the use of computers and it is common practice for children to have their own tablets or laptops to use for homework. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that handwriting skills are in decline.

Add this to the way that teenagers communicate with each other i.e. through text speak/slang and you might begin to wonder just how much this will affect our written communications in the future. An article from The Telegraph argues that even students at some of the top ranking universities were struggling to master the basics of the English language. If this is the case, where does that leave the rest of us?

Will copywriters of the future have to master the art of text speak in order to communicate to the masses or will those of us who still know the difference between ‘there’ and ‘their’ be like gold dust.

OMG I hope so, cos I wud h8 2 have 2 do this all day LOL.

I will leave you with that thought. If you read until the end, congratulations, I will reward you with this hilarious video clip of Sir Cliff singing his song. It is worth a view for the canary yellow silk shirt and tight leather pants alone!


  1. Mummy Tries

    A brilliantly thought provoking post Nikki, and it’s a topic of conversation my hubby and I regularly have. I sincerely hope we aren’t all destined to become text speakers, because it drives me nuts. I don’t think we will, because there will always be the need to speak and communicate properly in the business world, and anyone wanting a career that involves going into an office will have to still adhere to the rules of English language. My hubby has just taken on two new members of his team who are in their early twenties and has realised there is a huge gap between their generation and ours. Way to make you feel old… and I guess the gap will grow even more over the next ten or fifteen years.

    Although lots of companies champion working from home, etc, I don’t think it will become the rule rather than the exception in our lifetime. Basically we are forced to communicate whether we like it or not. I’m sure twenty years ago we thought we’d all be partying on Mars by now… Very happy new year to you all lovely, your skiing break sounded fab!

    • Nicola Young

      I know what you mean about the young folk of today (how old does that make me sound!). There are few who have something about them but not many do. When they spend so much time gaming, I think they become like zombies and all you get out of them are grunts. Perhaps we will end up reverting to caveman speak in order to communicate, or even, we will only speak looking forwards and at a screen instead of actually looking someone in the eye and really communicating! We are all guilty of spending too much time on our phones and tablets etc, but whereas we are able to realise this and take a break from time to time, the younger generation don’t know any different.

      • Mummy Tries

        Oh god I hope not Nikki, caveman grunts and no eye contact would be a rubbish way of living. You’ve hit the nail on the head though – there’s a whole generation that think this is ok. Sad times!

  2. maddy@writingbubble

    Good old Cliff – a friend of mine sends my husband a joke gift of Cliff’s latest calendar every year so we are never deprived of his ‘interesting’ style choices. ROFL. LOLZ. Ahem. v interesting post. The idea of a future even more saturated by online conversations freaks me out a bit. Obviously the internet is great but having had time away from it over christmas really emphasised that nothing can replace real life interactions, not for me anyway.I hope for a future where we can all write and talk in person and blog and chat online too. Language as we know it is too good to lose! Thanks for linking to #whatimwriting. xx

    • Nicola Young

      There has got to be room in this world for all types of communication. As writers, we definitely need to be able to communicate through the written word and often writers prefer to communicate this way. By the way, I really don’t know what ROFL and LOLZ means (how bad am I?)

      • maddy@writingbubble

        Rolling On the Floor Laughing and plural of LOL (why the plural has a z I have no idea – ask a young person!) Hehe

  3. redpeffer

    I remember the song well, in fact we had the album at home! My children have no idea what a record is, sob.
    I wonder about this too, although I have a sneaking suspicion that the art of conversation will make a come back albeit under a modern technological guise somehow. After all, we’re human beings and humans are social-this means facial and body language messages as much as words.
    But that might be more me hoping than anything concrete 🙂

    • Nicola Young

      I think so too, especially via things like youtube. I’m sure there will be other crazy ways of communicating invented in the future and texting will seem so ancient and old fashioned (like Cliff!)

  4. Emily Organ

    Argh – not Cliff! I hope you don’t have his calendar on your wall? ; ) What an interesting post, it’s quite hard to predict what will happen to language. I know we’re fearful of everything being dumbed down, but I can imagine the grammar police still being around ten, twenty years from now. I like to be optimistic that there will still be good standards of communication in the future and not just text speak – although how that communication will take place could be anything!

    • Nicola Young

      I certainly do not have his calendar! Funny video though. Hopefully you are right. English is a very important subject at school still and kids can’t get far if they dont pass it. Hopefully they will not abandon what they learn as soon as they finish gcse’s.

  5. sophieblovett

    It really is fascinating to think about the way communication is going, and you’ve summed it up brilliantly here. I do feel like, even amongst teenagers, there’s been a bit of a rebellion against ‘text speak’ – there were whole groups of them in the (regular comprehensive) school I used to teach at who were appalled at the very idea of it, saying using it would just make them look stupid. Social Media has in many ways extended the ways in which people communicate in comparison to the early days of mobile phones – now it’s about a complex interplay between words, images and videos which young people are having to effectively become curators of to make an impact online. I can feel myself getting a bit carried away here, but suffice to say this was a very thought-provoking post! Thank you 🙂 x

    • Nicola Young

      It is interesting to hear that about teenagers. You are right that communication has become a lot more creative. I struggle with the technicalities of a lot of the social media apps and such like and i am content with the basics, but my 11yr old daughter is a whizz at these things and she knows the ins and outs of everything.

  6. Aimee (@AimeeHorton)

    Oh I love this post! I have posted a few times about how whilst I a ADORE social media, and I’m a total addict, I’m sad that I think Social Media has made us lazy with a bit of a one-tracked mind.

    Great post x

    • Nicola Young

      When you go somewhere where there is no wifi, you immediately start to panic, then after a few days, you realise that it is quite nice to have a break. It’s then that you also realise how addicted you had become to looking at your phone all the time. I love the look of your blog by the way. I couldn’t see how you could comment on your post though. Am I being blind?

  7. mytravelmonkey

    Love this. You’re absolutely right that I was humming Sir Cliff (my parents are big fans!). I’ve just been out with some friends and at one point we were all on our phones. Terrible!! I only think this will get worse – Monkey is already pretty good at using the iPad. But I suppose the key is to keep talking; having family dinners etc where technology is banned. I love talking! And I still believe good conversation beats texting, emails and what’s apps. You can’t tell a story or your thoughts properly without face to face interaction. I’ve seen so many redundancies in my company and in amazed I still have a job!

    • Nicola Young

      Sorry about that – the video is funny though! I agree – it is hard to say that you will never get them any technology, because that is unrealistic. We have tablets, which we use when going on trips etc. I don’t like the way my son is after he has been on it – he goes all weird and hyper. The girls don’t seem to be affected in the same way. We have held off with things like X-Box and Wii, as no one is that fussed one way or the other. I imagine that if you have things like that, then you need to set limits.

  8. Morgan Prince

    Oh gosh Nikki, that text language line made me cringe. I can’t even write like that when I’m writing a text! I just can’t do it.
    You’re right though, what is going to happen to communications? Who knows, but I hope, like you, that copywriters who know the difference between ‘they’re’ and ‘their’ will be like gold-dust. I can’t bare thinking about the other side of it.

    • Nicola Young

      It took me a while to write that too and that’s all i know how yo write anyway. There is no way i would want to write like that all the time.

  9. suzanne3childrenandit

    This post really made me thing actually – on a personal and professional level. With out business, we rely heavily on telemarketing but I know that this is a thing of the past and have therefore been working hard on our company website. Getting the world to know about you is harder and harder I think but it’s a vital exercise. As you say, copywriters are going to become a vital part of that process…I do hope that this text speak doesn’t take off!

    • Nicola Young

      Telemarketing is tough and it doesn’t help that there are so many bogus callers out there looking to rip you off. If you have a decent website, people can look you up and decide for yourself if they like the look and sound of the company. Then it is all about being high up in the searches and standing out from the crowd.

  10. deskmonkeymummy

    Thought provoking post.

    Text speak is a pain in the butt to do. I have friends on Facebook who consistently use it and I wonder if it takes them longer to type each post. I thought it was developed in the days of texting when you were limited to 100? Characters and each text cost 10 p so you crammed it in. Nowadays Autocorrect is all too ready to jump in and turn your text speak into something with a bit of spice.

    Do you find these new methods of communication sneaking into your books as well?

    All three of my kids can effectively get our tech to do whatever they want and that’s scary. At work the students coming in know more about computers than some of the staff since they grew up with them. Kids are being taught programming basics in some schools because it’s considered a necessary skill. Computers are here to stay. Turns out wall-e was right!

    • Nicola Young

      It’s great that the youngsters know so much about technology though. They even learn coding now, which almost reminds me of the old days of trying to learn how to do commands (I didn’t get it at all). Auto correct is great, though you occasionally miss the correction and can send and receive some rather strange – and funny – messages. It throws up another question – can people spell any more? Do they need to? I don’t know about whether I write differently, but you definitely need to bring some reality to dialogue when you write fiction. The other thing is, we do it jokingly, but as we have a tween we get a lot of ‘whatever’ creeping in to the every day language. We say it back just to wind her up, with things like ‘OMG what evs’!

  11. Jenny @ Let's Talk Mommy

    I agree and we were literally talking about this yesterday, my husband and I how scary it will be for our kids to grow up where no one ever talks to each other. I fear the divorce rate will climb. You need human interaction and communication to have a relationship of any kind. It’s a scary thought isn’t it? I had to spit out my coffee when I read your abbreviations and sadly I didn’t have to pause to figure them out. Sad more like. hahaha I can’t imagine that world. OMG! Thank you so much for linking up to Share With Me. #sharewithme

    • Nicola Young

      It is bad enough to write it, but to speak like that would be awful. We only say OMG out loud as a joke, thank goodness. I encourage my daughter to talk to her friends if they have fall outs, because they are more likely to do it by email or text if not, which can get really quite nasty, it’s terrible. Much better to front it out, although it is easier for them to hide behind their technology and feel braver for doing so. They don’t learn anything by doing that though.

  12. Merlinda (@pixiedusk)

    Its a reality I think. Interaction between people will be less and less personal. Because it is easier.

    I am also thinking though of places where these technology is yet available. Is their life better?

    I have so many questions. We are in that situation where evolution is going on in front of us. Exciting and scary at the same time but inevitable.



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