Book: Because Internet

Because Internet 3D Hardcover bookshot
Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language

From Riverhead Books (Penguin, US) and Harvill Secker/Vintage (Random House, UK), available in hardcover, audiobook, ebook, and paperback!

“Gretchen McCulloch is the internet’s favorite linguist, and this book is essential reading. Reading her work is like suddenly being able to see the matrix.” —Jonny Sun, author of everyone’s a aliebn when ur a aliebn too

Because Internet is for anyone who’s ever puzzled over how to punctuate a text message or wondered where memes come from. It’s the perfect book for understanding how the internet is changing the English language, why that’s a good thing, and what our online interactions reveal about who we are.

Language is humanity’s most spectacular open-source project, and the internet is making our language change faster and in more interesting ways than ever before. Internet conversations are structured by the shape of our apps and platforms, from the grammar of status updates to the protocols of comments and @replies. Linguistically inventive online communities spread new slang and jargon with dizzying speed. What’s more, social media is a vast laboratory of unedited, unfiltered words where we can watch language evolve in real time.

Even the most absurd-looking slang has genuine patterns behind it. Internet linguist Gretchen McCulloch explores the deep forces that shape human language and influence the way we communicate with one another. She explains how your first social internet experience influences whether you prefer “LOL” or “lol,” why ~sparkly tildes~ succeeded where centuries of proposals for irony punctuation had failed, what emoji have in common with physical gestures, and how the artfully disarrayed language of animal memes like lolcats and doggo made them more likely to spread.

Get the book

You can get Because Internet in person or on the website of your favourite local bookstore, or follow one of the links below:

You can buy signed copies through Argo Bookshop in Montreal, a fantastic indie bookstore which I keep stocked in signed copies if you happen to be in Montreal, and which is also happy to ship internationally, at your expense (just add a note when you check out if you want it personalized to a particular name!)

Or sign up for my monthly linguistics email newsletter to make sure you don’t miss any book news on social media and find out when a Because Internet event may be happening near you!


Because Internet was published in Japanese in 2022, translated by Toshio Chiba. You can get it at Filmart or

Because Internet was published in Korean in 2022, translated by Kang Donghyuk. You can get it at, Kyobo, and elsewhere.

What people think

Because Internet is a New York Times bestseller!

Named a Best Book of 2019 by Esquire, Real Simple, TIME, The Washington Post, BookPage, Washington Independent Review of Books, Vox, and Amazon.

A Wired Must-Read Book of Summer

“McCulloch is such a disarming writer — lucid, friendly, unequivocally excited about her subject — that I began to marvel at the flexibility of the online language she describes, with its numerous shades of subtlety.” —The New York Times

“Gretchen McCulloch is the internet’s favorite linguist, and this book is essential reading. Reading her work is like suddenly being able to see the matrix. She explains the hows and the whys of the ways we talk online with the deepest empathy, understanding, and compassion.” —Jonny Sun, author of everyone’s a aliebn when ur a aliebn too

“McCulloch’s book is a good start in guiding readers to consider the wild language of the internet as a thing of wonder—a valuable feature, not a bug.” —The Wall Street Journal

“[An] effervescent study of how the digital world is transfiguring English. . . . [McCulloch’s] almost political thesis—the more voices, the better—rebukes both the élitism of traditional grammar snobs and the cliquishness of, say, Tumblr. It’s a vision of language as one way to make room for one another.” —The New Yorker

“Lively and wide-ranging.” —NPR

“We know lols, emojis and hashtags are altering our discourse. Linguist McCulloch counts—and revels in—the ways. Give it to your favorite stickler.” —People

“Rather than obsessing about what the internet is doing to language, [Because Internet] largely focuses on what can be learned about language from the internet. . . . McCulloch’s book is about the birth of a new medium.” —The Economist

“A well-researched retort to grumpy grammarians who think technology is turning kids into lazy, inarticulate drivelers.” —Time

“A compelling narrative rich with examples from her own online activities, a healthy dose of humor, and plenty of cat memes… the breadth of topics covered—from conversation analysis to meme culture to the development of texting as we now know it—makes this book useful, engaging, and enjoyable.” —Science

“Part Linguistics 101, part social history of the internet, Because Internet revels in digital language deconstruction, exploring not just the evolving language of online informal…More importantly, she doesn’t just appreciate internet language, she celebrates it.” —The Ringer

“It doesn’t matter if you’re baffled by the linguistics of the internet or you’re the first person to share memes with your friends; this book is so absorbing it will immediately draw you in.” —PopSugar

“Sometimes it seems like the internet is a seething brew of ugliness and misery. So it’s nice to remember that, as well as the lawless drudgery, there are complex human systems that, intentional or not, create something totally new. Internet linguist (damn!) Gretchen McCulloch explores the ever-changing language of online.” —Elle, “30 Best Books to Read this Summer”

“McCulloch lays out the ways in which online lingo, from emojis to GIFs to acronyms like “lol” and “omg,” has become a vital part of modern communication. It’s also an analog window into how the evolution of digital communication mirrors the shifts in word usage that have happened over generations.” —Wired, “Must-Read Books of Summer”

“Gretchen McCulloch’s Because Internet is not your English teacher’s grammar guide—not even close. Self-described internet linguist McCulloch traces how the web has changed the way we communicate—whether through emoji, lowercase letters. or cat memes—and makes a compelling, entertaining argument that this change is good for the English language as a whole.” —Real Simple

“In prose at once scholarly and user-friendly, McCulloch unpacks the evolution of language in the digital age, providing a comprehensive survey of everything from the secret language of emojis to the appeal of animal memes.” —Esquire

“English’s great strength is its informality and the internet has created a golden age for studying this flexibility: McCulloch’s lively and delightful survey of these new findings is a must for anyone who loves language in all its expressive forms.” —Cory Doctorow

“A funny and fascinating examination of the evolution of language in the digital age.” —Publishers Weekly

“An insightful analysis of language and the internet of right now, in-depth yet accessible to any internet generation.” —Booklist

“A fun read for Internet people of all generations….Recommended for web and language nerds alike, encompassing illuminating facts on the origin of acronyms, memes, and digital tone of voice.” —Library Journal  

“Because Internet is a rare gem: a groundbreaking scholarly study that’s also approachable, personable, and funny. McCulloch guides the reader through the seeming disorder of internet-influenced communications and deftly contextualizes all of it: memes and gifs, emoji and emoticons, weird punctuation and no punctuation. Her enthusiasm for language is matched by her command over the subject; if you’re worried that the internet has killed language, McCulloch’s extensive examination will convince you otherwise. Because Internet is an absolute unit: a unique linguistic study, a history of the internet, a how-to, and an encouragement that the omgs and cat pictures have only brought us closer together.” —Kory Stamper, author of Word by Word

Because Internet is the most up-to-date and comprehensive guide to the way informal internet language has evolved and is evolving. Its historical perspective will illuminate every generation of internet users: oldies will get a clear picture of what young people are up to; younglings will discover the origins of their latest linguistic fashions. Gretchen McCulloch writes with great common sense, an eye for the apt illustration, an appealing sense of humour, and a real concern for explanation. She doesn’t just describe language trends: she investigates why they’ve taken place, and it’s her insightful interpretations that give this book its special appeal.” —David Crystal, author of Shakespeare’s Words and How Language Works

“Because Internet is a joyful exploration of the newest creative upswell of English—if you want to understand why you love emoji, share memes, and don’t make a sound when lol-ing, you need this book!” —Erin McKean, founder of the online dictionary

“Gretchen McCulloch has pulled off the feat of answering every question anyone today of any age has about how the internet has transformed the way we use language every day. Just try putting this book down.” —John McWhorter, author of Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue and Words on the Move


Contact Shailyn Tavella for information on review copies and interviews. High-res version of the cover and author photo may be downloaded below (right click and open in new window).

For links to full reviews and other media coverage of Because Internet, go to the media page.

Alternate formats for this page: Download Because Internet book as pdf and Download Because Internet book as epub.