It shouldn't be the least bit surprising that I'm not the only word nerd who works at the paper. So when a story shows up online using "Woah," someone's going to comment on our online workspace.

Of course that would be our Managing Editor Alyson Hoge, who is a longtime horse owner and, at one point in her career, headed the copy desk (wherein reside lots of word nerds). She noted that her horses don't respond to "woah." (And I'm hearing that in Joey Lawrence's voice from "Blossom." Curse of Gen X. Hearing words in specific voices, not "Blossom"; it was pretty cool for the time.)

The headline at issue was "Woah Philly: Horse seen running on Philadelphia highway," on a TV news story circulated by Cox Media (the original story from WPIV didn't include the offending "woah").

Now I'm all for wordplay, and I've used it a lot over the years. I even received a first-place award for a Shakespeare-inspired headline ("Aye, there's the tub!") for a HomeStyle cover story years ago. But what you won't see from me in a headline is an Internet (mis)spelling, unless it's to point it out.

Call it timesaving (it's not so much if the person on the other end has to try to figure out what you meant) or being "cute" (because apparently intentional misspellings are cute now), Internet-speak has the tendency to annoy, and not just grammar grouches (which I am assuredly not, as I concentrate mainly on conversational grammar since that's how we write in opinion).

I love the website I Can Has Cheezburger?, but cringe that so many of the felines there "speak" like they skipped out on lessons at pre-k and kindergarten and focused on recess only. Pardon me, but my Luke spoke proper English (except at the vet, when it was mostly [expletive deleted]), as do my fur-nephew Charlie and many of the other cats I take care of. Sure, Ollie and Chicot probably would converse in Internet-speak, but they're kittens. They don't know any better!

Alternate spellings for some words are legion on the Internet, like "teh," "yay," "awe," and the aforementioned "woah." While one of my friends is a staunch defender of "yay" (I'll forgive her because she's one of my best friends, and mom to Charlie and Ollie ... even though it's "yea," Sarah), other friends aren't as inclined to embrace Internet-speak.

Shelley Smith of Fox, a retired teacher and sometime guest columnist, told me she'd love to rid the world of "all the abbreviations that I cannot stand. FWIW, TY, YW, and of course U and UR. The your/you're thing already drives me nuts, so 'ur' is enough to push me over the edge."

I completely agree. I'm constantly having to Google unfamiliar acronyms (a few of which ended up being the result of clumsy fingers on tiny keys). Stop. Making. Me. Feel. Old. Sheesh!

Brian Cormack of Little Rock, who on his Threads profile calls himself "Photographer, toddler-wrangler and nap aficionado," asked, "Could we please get rid of 'LOLZ'?" When I responded with a hearty "Yes!!!" he answered with a "Lord of the Rings" GIF of Elrond yelling, "Destroy it!"

We nerds get each other.

But I'm definitely in favor of getting rid of "lolz" (sometimes "lulz") as it tends to be used, in my experience, by those who prefer trolling (i.e., posting outrageous, sometimes defamatory or off-topic content in order to disrupt discussion ... and for the "lulz") to civil conversation.

But back to "woah." Merrill Perlman wrote in 2018 in Columbia Journalism Review that "'Whoa' (or 'woah') means 'stop,' but it's become a casual conversation-stopper roughly translating to 'holy crap.'

"Finding the misspelling in social media is as easy as a quarter-horse cutting a calf out of a herd. Social media is, after all, a more casual communications method, and need not hew to the formalities of 'proper' spelling or grammar. Trying to correct that small misunderstanding in casual written communications (from people who might not know better) is fruitless."

But, Perlman noted, "woah" has been sneaking in to more formal writing as well, and at least at that point was almost always in a quote rather than narrative.

And now, six years later, headlines, I guess. Dang it.

In the discussion on our workspace, I noted how misspellings or use of the wrong word (sometimes because it's a homophone like neigh/nay or verses/versus) can make it hard for readers to understand what the heck you're talking about, which is why copy desks and news organizations have style rules on which words to use in specific situations.

Using the correct word goes a long way to helping people understand exactly what you mean. In live conversation it's not so easy (I usually think of the correct word hours later), but in print, we should put forth the effort so that people aren't so distracted by that wrong word (variant spelling, homophone or just plain wrong) that they lose the sentence's intended meaning.

As I said that day, "I've described the job of an editor before as maintaining a road; we have to make sure that everything flows well. To me, 'woah' is a pothole."

A pothole in Joey Lawrence's voice. Whoa, Nelly.

Assistant Editor Brenda Looper is editor of the Voices page. Email her at blooper@adgnewsroom.com. Read her blog at blooper0223.wordpress.com.

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