I hate “lol” with a burning passion. This is probably one of those generational things. I’m a literal person. If you use lol, I assume you mean you laughed out loud. If you call a woman a MILF, I assume she’s someone’s mother. (That second one actually resulted in a long debate about what the term meant. I asked the gentleman in question what he thought the “m” stood for. He had no answer, but he insisted the term was meant to refer to any older woman. Anyway. I digress. Urban dictionary showed that the term is shifting, so I conceded that I just don’t spend enough time around people who use the term to have shifted my understanding of it. As I’ve said before, language and usage are changing all the time.)
So, back to the point. I view lol as one of those terms you use sparingly to show that something was incredibly funny. But there are many people out there who use it as some sort of nervous laughter. For example, a random dating profile reads: “i work alot lol i like all music besides country….im a funny guy i guess people say lol.” Another reads: “I guess the best way to do this is to just list a bunch of crap that I like lol, so here we go.” Or how about, “You’re never too old to learn something stupid lol.”
(I swear there are better examples out there, but for some reason I can’t find them right now.)
Anyway, due to this weird usage of lol that I personally cannot stand, I never use it. I’ll use hahaha or some variation, but, even when I do laugh out loud at something a friend says, I don’t use lol. (What can I say, I’m a fuddy duddy.)
Now, to bring this back to writing. I’m sure that the folks who use lol this way don’t realize how annoying it is to others. It’s part of their group norm; it’s part of how the people they associate with communicate. They can’t see the issue.
In the same way, newer writers can’t see the “errors” in their writing that make more experienced writers cringe in revulsion. I’ve heard that newer writers have characters that are always smiling or sighing and end up looking like crazed maniacs as a result. I’m certain my writing has this issue.
People convey emotions non-verbally all the time. And smiling is frequently the way to do so. We grin, we smile sympathetically, we smirk, we smile politely while wanting to hurt someone. We do it all. But, when something has been overused, abused, and beaten to death like a dead horse, you have to avoid it or those people who’ve developed a Pavlovian aversion to it will turn away from your work and never come back to it.
So, in the same way that I unfriend people on Facebook who overuse lol in their posts, editors or agents may reject authors who overuse clichéd actions like smiling, sighing, etc. Just one more thing to watch out for…