“Gr8 public ngagemt opp MT @christyclarkbc: Geoffrey Cowper 2 talk judges,Crown,police-how 2 reform justic systm. Results this summer #bcpoli” – Community, Sport and Cultural Development Minister Ida Chong
Ida Chong firmly believes in good grammar, she stresses during our interview.
“I don’t want young people thinking this is how words are really spelt,” she says, pausing briefly before she adds with a chuckle, “or spelled.”
But Ms. Chong’s tweet, sent Wednesday after Premier Christy Clark unveiled plans for a justice-system review, highlights the problem politicians face when embracing Twitter: How does one retain an aura of professionalism while meeting the 140-character limit?
In fairness to Ms. Chong, she’s not the only B.C. politician who drops a letter here or there. And to the BC Liberals’ credit, they appear more active on Twitter than the opposition NDP.
Ms. Chong, MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head since 1996, started tweeting in earnest in September. She saw an opportunity to reach a different segment of the population, one that doesn’t take the time to read the paper or watch the news.
When asked her age – as delicately as possible – Ms. Chong will only admit she’s in her early 50s. She’s no techie and using Twitter has come with some growing pains. Her staff once told her to slow down because she sent 20 tweets in a single day. Members of the public have questioned why she tweets from events.
And, of course, there’s the spelling.
“Somebody who was following me said, ‘You have very strange abbreviations.’ I thought, ‘Really?’” Ms. Chong recalls. “What I try to do is mainly take out the vowels, because that’s another type of shorthand.”
Christopher Schneider, assistant professor of sociology at the University of British Columbia Okanagan, said tweeting shorthand has pros and cons for politicians. On the one hand, it can help young people connect. On the other, it can make a politician appear less polished or less serious.
Peter Chow-White, assistant professor at Simon Fraser University’s school of communication, said while politicians should worry more than the average user about how they appear, “following the Queen’s English is not entirely important.” Playing with language, he said, is simply part of the Twitter culture.