R U OK @ Rting?

Why are we allowing our writing skills to diminish?

My boyfriend’s mother recently received a handwritten thank you card in the mail.  With e-mailing, texting, and printing, any handwritten note today is something special.  It shows that someone actually took the time to write, putting a little of oneself into every pen stroke on paper.  Handwritten notes are meaningful and personal, attracting a bit of attention nowadays.  However, what also got the attention of my boyfriend’s mother was in addition to the note being handwritten, the writing style used was “textspeak.”

In case you don’t have a cell phone or have never texted before, textspeak is a very informal writing style in which words are purposely misspelled in order to shorten them (i.e., “ur” for “your” or “you’re”), numbers are incorporated into words or used in place of words (i.e., “gr8” in place of “great” or “4” in place of “for”), or words are entirely substituted with acronyms (i.e., “lol” for “laughing out loud”).  When you have a cell phone and normally have a character limit in which to write a text message, textspeak is pretty handy.  It allows you to write more and quickly rather than struggle to thumb-type complete words.  It’s all about getting your message across, albeit informally; it’s not about using proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

Nevertheless, we’re allowing the ease and quickness of textspeak to severely handicap our writing skills, and this is especially prevalent among the younger generations.  Those who were born in the age of electronic technology (Generation Y and later) are casting aside what they’ve learned in high school English classes and adapting bad writing habits, internalizing them as correct English.

As a former college writing instructor and high school English teacher who values the power of the written word, I find the current trend scary and hope it’s not here to stay.  It’s fine to use textspeak with friends, but we still need to know how to write properly in every other situation.  Writing not only affects how we think, but it’s also a reflection of how we think.  When we read Shakespeare, Austen, Twain, and other great writers, we’re given insight into their minds and reasoning.  What kind of insight do we get from a sentence such as “c u @ 6 bf ttyl”?  Why can’t we all brush up on our writing skills before we become a society of mentally low functioning illiterates?

Why, indeed.


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