Txt Spk In Schools Not A Big Deal

from the yet-again dept

While some of the headlines on the latest Pew Study about how “txt speak” is slipping into school writing assignments suggest the horror of a generation of kids who write LOL and use smileys in written communications, the actual results aren’t that bad at all. What the study found was that, yes, occasionally some students let slip non-formal English, though that’s hardly surprising. However, it’s not particularly damaging, and it becomes a teaching point, helping students learn the difference between formal and informal English. This is nothing new. Every year we see the same basic study results, despite plenty of people flipping out. Despite long term worries about txt speak destroying the language, there’s no evidence to support that.

In 2003, there was a study that showed that all this writing online was actually making kids more comfortable with writing in general. In 2004, a study showed (like this one) that with a little instruction kids easily understood the difference between texting and writing. In 2005, a study actually found that kids were better writers than in the past “using far more complex sentence structures, a wider vocabulary and a more accurate use of capital letters, punctuation and spelling” even if they sometimes let a txtism into their writing. And, in 2006, a study showed that students showed no ill effects from widespread text and IM messaging. In other words, this story is getting plenty of attention, but the details don’t support the headline version that kids are unable to understand what’s appropriate in their writing.

Also, one other interesting finding came out of this study: despite the fact that kids sometimes seem attached to their computers, two-thirds actually prefer to write assignments by hand. So, perhaps that’ll put to rest that other circulating myth that kids aren’t able to write by hand any more.

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Comments on “Txt Spk In Schools Not A Big Deal”

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46 Comments
Rekrul says:

In 2005, a study actually found that kids were better writers than in the past “using far more complex sentence structures, a wider vocabulary and a more accurate use of capital letters, punctuation and spelling” even if they sometimes let a txtism into their writing.

Then why is it that so few of these kids show up on the net? Half the messages I see on forums and in the comments of sites like this one, don’t use proper capitalization, or puncuation and most of them don’t know the difference between “there, “their” and “they’re” or “your” and “you’re”. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen “ur” in a message.

I know I’m not a perfect writer. I make spelling mistakes, I sometimes omit words and I probably mis-use some punctuation symbols, but at least I try.

Gunnar says:

Re: Rekrul

For the same reason great speakers aren’t necessarily great talkers.

I hate to talk to people, and for a long time I was terrified of public speaking. But I’m actually really good at it. Small talk and speeches take completely different mindsets. The same goes for casual, communicative writing and school-assigned writing.

Only punctuation is truly necessary for accurate communication, and even it isn’t paramount. There shouldn’t be a comma after capitalization in “capitalization, or punctuation”, but it doesn’t really matter. Using there when you mean their doesn’t often obscure the meaning of the sentence.

JS Beckerist (profile) says:

Re: Re: Rekrul

I’ve found that’s true for a lot of things. I’m OK at small talk, I’m excellent at public speaking. I get bored reading a book to myself, I can read aloud for hours. My handwriting sucks, but I’m not a bad artist. I know for a fact my brain is using different parts of itself for singing, reciting, writing, reading, etc… I don’t see this as a surprise at all.

Though, on the GPs point, I have to agree. I try my hardest to use appropriate spelling and grammar. I rarely see that even in WORK related emails anymore.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Rekrul

And you imagine your daily interactions at work and online are with children?

The older generation, who hasn’t grown up with the same pervasiveness of technology, they’re the ones who are at a disadvantage. I’m not saying all of today’s kids are brilliant, I’m just saying that just because someone says “your stupid” doesn’t mean they’re under the age of, say, 30.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Rekrul

This sentence illustrates poor use of modifiers:

Only punctuation is truly necessary for accurate communication, and even it isn’t paramount.

The word “only” modifies “punctuation”, stating that nothing other than punctuation is truly necessary, however many other factors are also necessary. In the context of discussion, we can figure out what was probably intended. There are many examples of sentences whose meaning changes without punctuation, and many more sentences that need no punctuation.

Like this one.

Like this one?

If I guess correctly, the sentence would be phrased:

Punctuation is only truly necessary for accurate communication, and even then, it is not paramount.

In my version, only modifies truly which in turn modifies necessary. There are many people who will argue that accurate communication is always necessary and those that argue that if you got your point across you have communicated accurately.

I fixed some other things. Rules of grammar forbid contractions in written text except in quotations.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Rekrul

i think what he was saying was that you need to have punctuation for accurate communication but that is all you need you do not need spelling or grammar because those can be fudged but if you do not have punctuiation then the whole thing just runs together you have no clue as to where one thought ends and the next begins i think he is wrong i think there is a lot more than just punctuation that goes into accurate communication but i think you are being careless if you think punctuation is not important sentences are not only hard to follow with out it but the can change there whole meaning if you do not have the proper pauses and such you know what i mean

Gunnar says:

Re: Re: Re: Rekrul

You’re right, only is an evil word. My sentence is technically wrong. But that’s the only thing wrong with my sentence, at least grammatically. The other bits are personal preference on my and your part. Of course, my sentence lacks an internal logic — how can something be the only necessity and yet not be paramount.

My manual of reference, the AP Stylebook (I’m a copy editor), allows contractions. I don’t know what formal writing is, but there is no single set ‘rules of grammar.’ I mean, I may have been taught that rule in high school, but most of the rules we learn in high school are silly. There’s nothing wrong with a preposition at the end of a sentence. There’s nothing wrong with a split infinitive. And there’s nothing wrong with starting a sentence with a conjunction. And there is nothing wrong with contractions. Except for unclear ones like ‘it’d,’ which can mean it had or it would.

Anyway, what I was thinking of was when I wrote above was the different ways of punctuation this old gem:

When told to punctuate the sentence “Woman without her man is nothing,”:

The men wrote: “Woman, without her man, is nothing.”

The women wrote: “Woman! Without her, man is nothing.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I saw “ur” in a banking related phishing email: “enter ur password”.

Don’t forget “loose” v. “lose”.

“Your purse strap is loose, so you might lose it”.

And “ad” v. “add”

“I’d like to add this photo to my ad in your paper”.

I’m not sure if the country is getting more illiterate or it is the illiterates dominating the internet. I’d bet on the latter.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Au contraire, SeIB. You get mentally graded everytime someone reads your posts. If you’re writing text messages to your personal friends, who you know don’t care, then fine, txt away. When you write in a public forum, there will be people who think to themselves, “Wow, that guy writes like an eighth grader.”

Gunnar says:

The handwriting bit isn’t surprising. Though kids are attached to their computers, they’re terrible typers. I TAed a typing class for freshmen at my high school and the average typing speed was under 30 wpm at the start.

I don’t like writing by hand for the same reason I don’t like talking: my hand — like my mouth — can’t keep up with my thoughts. Only my fingers seem to be fast enough.

short hand says:

This is a widely used proffessional practice

It’s called short hand, and it’s often used by professional stenographers. I was actually taught short hand in high school as a preparation for college so that I could keep up with professors lecturing. The whole idea behind txtspk is that you reduce the time to encode thought into text, allowing a faster exchange of ideas.
When one looks at it for what it is, shorthand, and not some evil corruption of language it’s no surprise that people who use it have a better understanding of language not worse. And people who encode their thoughts into text more often are going to be better writers in general.

giengus says:

I'm So Glad We Destroyed Archaic English

If thou wilt… can you imagine returning to that language? Txt spk is just a change in the language, that is used for rapid communication over a network. It started in forumn posts, not in phone txt’ing. Language changes when it isn’t able to do its job. Language started as a verbal communication when face to face. Then the printing press became common and they had to actually figure out how to spell these words they were using. Now that there is so much casual conversations where the parties communicating cannot see the other party they have to come up with ways to inject body language into the communication. Also, the traditional spelling of words are not convenient when trying to quickly get a statement over the wire.

Pete Valle (user link) says:

Teaching English

I am an English professor at a small university, so I have some field experience with this. I see students using Internet language more and more, and they don’t see a problem with it. This week a student gave an oral presentation and his name was written in l33t. I asked him why, he told me it was “cool.” I groaned and explained to him that in a serious academic or professional situation, using l33t is not proper. He just smirked.

And these are 18 & 19-year-olds, mind you, only a decade younger than me.

AusinUS says:

Side story for children using txt spk

My wife is an english teacher…
She once had a “disagreement” with an irate parent who attempted to defend their child’s poor marks. The parent’s defense was, “Well in the new technology based future this is how everyone will communicate. So they need experience speaking it now.” After my wife finished strangling the parent, well she did so in her imagination, she decided to have the woman read something. She wrote the woman a message in txt spk and asked the woman to read it. She could only barely comprehend it, but this only made the woman more mad claiming it was an unfair comparison. My wife had repeated with the woman’s child had written on his paper, and afterwards told her so.
You have to give the parent credit because after this she still tried to argue the child a better grade. My wife asked the parent to focus her enthusiasm and passion into checking her child’s homework.
Coming from Australia, the fact a parent would try to argue a better grade for their child is utterly unthinkable.

Indafog says:

relax rekrul...

I don’t think using online posts/e-mails as an example of the next generations ills is quite accurate. I am less careful and a lot less formal when writing in online chats/posts/etc. From what I’ve seen this isn’t really age related. Tell me that all of your friends are Enlish writing geniouses? Come on! They told me the world was going to hell in a handbasket when I graduated and we’re still here!

Sound like a bunch of grumpy old men/women!

oops… that was a sentence fragment… oh no!

lmertz says:

This generation

My daughter can type faster than you can imagine, has for years. She can also write, read fast and comprehend what she reads. She first typed a paper for school on my computer in 5th grade and has never looked back. My son is much the same, a fast, accurate typer, speller and reader. Again, started early. Neither are text happy. I think this next generation will do just fine. Less than 100 year ago many of the things we take for granted in our written communications would not have been accepted as correct. Language grows and changes with the culture. I agree that we need to preserve a level of correct grammar, spelling and usage in formal communications, but if they are able to connect using shorthand more power to them.

Jake says:

Touch-Typing

I wonder if perhaps the wider availability of good computer equipment is causing schools to lose focus on the basics. At my primary school in the early 1990s, all we had were a bunch of ten year-old DOS machines and I think one Apple II, so pretty much all they could teach us in the way of computer skills was touch-typing. It didn’t help me very much -my hand-eye coordination is poor, especially with my off-hand- but I at least knew my way around a keyboard by the time I reached secondary school, where we learned the basics of Microsoft Office and the Internet. Now that even seven year-olds are being shown how to use the Web, it’s all to easy to skip over elementary stuff like typing before moving onto the rest.
On the other hand, of course, being able to hammer out fifty words a minute or more isn’t always necessary or even helpful with word processors; the ability to correct as you go along enables you to do your thinking straight onto the keyboard rather than fill a dozen-odd pages of a notebook with misspellings and crossings-out before typing up the draft version, in which case it’s actually beneficial for your brain to be a few sentences ahead of your fingers, as it’s always better to try and get it right the first time rather than do sloppy work in a rush and patch it up afterwards. I’m not saying there’s necessarily anything wrong with getting it all down and saving any corrections until afterwards, of course, merely that it’s about personal taste rather than either method having any objective merit over another.

Strofcon says:

Not so much an issue of knowing the difference

The issue is not the failure of kids to know the differences between txt and proper grammer/spelling, but rather that, in spite of the knowledge of those differences, they still use it because the don’t notice it.

My little sister, several cousins, kids from family friends, and even students in my university use txt in school papers quite regularly. When asked what they should have written, they generally know the correct word/spelling, but say that they didn’t even notice they had made the errors. It slips in so unconsciously that they are oblivious to the error, even though they know why it actually is an error.

I don’t ask that everyone be a perfect writer, because I know I’m certainly not. I just hope that it doesn’t become acceptable to let such errors occur consistently, as could easily become the case.

Chris says:

RE: TXT SPK

The problem with communicating in txt spk (so to speak:) is the party receiving the message often needs to take more time to decipher it. Lack of puntuation and proper grammar associated with this txt spk may be acceptable in setting up a weekend party or sending a quick note to a friend, but will certainly never replace proper english. English is one of the most expressive languages on earth and has borrowed liberally from other languages in order to adapt to changing times needs. One cannot carry on a conversation of abstract concepts and reasoning without having a common set of rules and definitions. I cannot count how many text messages I have requested be resent with clarification just from my wife. I could not even imagine having to deal with an e-mail from a client in such a format, or a resume coming across my desk that needs a codetalker to interpret.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: RE: TXT SPK

the party receiving the message often needs to take more time to decipher it.

This is false, at least among those who use txt spk regularly. There are rules and commonly-used abbreviations that The Initiated are familiar with. 133t was the same way; it’s not complete anarchy, you just don’t understand the rules.

Granted, I don’t understand the rules either, but my little sister doesn’t even blink when she gets a txt or email riddled with the stuff. I stick to whole words, myself.

Anonymous Coward says:

The problem is when the students don’t understand when it is appropriate to use txt spk and when it isn’t appropriate. If they are using it in school and in presentations, they obviously don’t know when NOT to use it.

txt spk should never be used in schools. School is a training ground for the future, and for 99% of the people out there, their future will not include using txt spk in their professional lives.

ailsa (user link) says:

if it wrks 4 u

wot is the problem?
Counselling through txt, email and interent message board postings provide challenges but also provide a service using media that people utilize as preferred choice.
In a screen limit of 160 characters and a costing system for each sent screen, the medium shapes the message.
Scary for some who seem to think that counselling can’t be achieved when it’s contracted.
But it also provides ‘voice’ for people who would find it too hard to say what it is that’s going on for them.
Or when it’s dangerous to talk and txting provides a safer medium.
Languages are alive, they change. Whether I use ‘utilize’ with a ‘z’ or an ‘s’ or write counselling or counseling shows this.
I used to worry that my daughter wasn’t reading enough books and was on her computer too much, and then i discovered she was writing chapters on fanfiction instead.
Does it matter? The point of being literate is to communicate, not to be a scholar and not to be class judged.
If ur interested in following my PhD on txt counselling, visit me at amusingspace.blogspot.com

Rekrul says:

There shouldn’t be a comma after capitalization in “capitalization, or punctuation”, but it doesn’t really matter.

I probably use many more commas than I should. When I write, I tend to write as if the words are being spoken. In fact, if something doesn’t seem right on the screen, I will sometimes recite it out loud to see if it sounds correct. This leads me to place commas at the points were I would normally pause in real life.

This week a student gave an oral presentation and his name was written in l33t. I asked him why, he told me it was “cool.” I groaned and explained to him that in a serious academic or professional situation, using l33t is not proper. He just smirked.

Back when I still had posting access on the IMDb, I often had to explain that the forums were threaded not “flat” like the comments here. When a message is replied to, the author of that message gets an email alert. Even after explaining this, some users refused to take the extra five seconds to click on the proper message because “That’s the way I’m used to doing it and it’s easier for me.”

Well, I stuttered till high school and basically hid it by not talking. And while I’m over the stutter, I never quite learned to voice my thoughts.

I never actually stuttered, but I was often nervous when talking to someone I didn’t know very well and this lead to situations where I would get halfway through a sentence and then not have any idea how to finish it. I’ve also noticed that I say “you know” far too often in casual conversations and I’ve been making an effort to stop. I’m still nervous about talking to new people in real life though.

On the other hand, of course, being able to hammer out fifty words a minute or more isn’t always necessary or even helpful with word processors

I never learned touch typing. I started with two fingers and now I use about six, three on each hand.

Granted, I don’t understand the rules either, but my little sister doesn’t even blink when she gets a txt or email riddled with the stuff. I stick to whole words, myself.

I use some shorthand when writing to friends or people I think will understand it, although not “txt spk”. I used to use BTW (By The Way) quite often.

When you write in a public forum, there will be people who think to themselves, “Wow, that guy writes like an eighth grader.”

Personally, I got an image of a white, middle class teenager dressed in ridiculously baggy clothes with a hat on sideways, listening to rap music and practicing saying “What up dog!” in front of a mirror until his father yells “Turn that sh** down!” 🙂

I used to worry that my daughter wasn’t reading enough books and was on her computer too much, and then i discovered she was writing chapters on fanfiction instead.

So that’s where all that Harry Potter porn is coming from. 😉

Here’s a video the users here should appreciate;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4nIUcRJX9-o

pineapplefish56 (user link) says:

What is the Allure of Text Messaging?

Youth with a perfectly good cell phone in their hands would rather spend their time texting than talking. You got a telephone – use it for speech! You can actually use it for talking!!
Most of these cell phones do not have qwerty keyboards, so they must hit some of the number buttons up to 3 times just to input just one letter.
Then most of these “vital” communications are air-head messages, about air-head subjects.
My friends teenage daughter ran up a $700 dollar phone bill in just one month.
Perhaps they have never heard of Morse Code, if they had, they would be using that instead.

Can your children communicate intelligently in writing? Or can they only write in ‘txt msg shthnd’? (Text message shorthand!) Can they even speak intelligently? What is their “CWPM” rate? (Curse Words Per Minute) let alone their, “Meaningless-Filler & Gratuitous-Phrases”, these are repetitive words or phrases, such as ‘like’, ‘um’ or ‘you-know’ in every sentence. It is the ability to get points across well and succinctly that will enable your kids to make a good living, but they also must be lucky enough to go to the right schools, staffed by the right teachers, they must pointed in a useful direction. Now that we’re well into the 21st century, are your kids getting that sort of guidance?

Twinrova says:

Studies are a waste of time and prove nothing.

I find it amazing when advocates for the children pull up lists of studies that say it’s not damaging them in any way.

Violence in video games isn’t harmful.

Text speak in essays isn’t harmful.

These studies obviously never watch real world interactions between kids and the way they communicate.

It’s appalling and I am drawing near my limits of listening to them speak. I feel sorry for the next “customer service” idiot who uses the word “like” more than they should.

When any form of text speak hits an essay, it’s a problem. There is absolutely no excuse for it and every day, teachers feel they must “give in” due to the increasing usage. Hell, even on reply stated this occurred at a college level.

The problem with this mentality of giving in is it perpetuates itself into adulthood, making it far more difficult for young adults to effectively communicate with their elders.

I see emails enter in my inbox with by people who do use “ur” and post with “smileys”, as well as improper sentence structure.

Many of the senders are under the age of 25 and have to, unfortunately, learn proper etiquette in corresponding with their supervisors. It’s not fun to watch these kids get “slapped on the wrist” for something they should know after having graduated college.

Apparently not. I can forgive spelling mistakes (your vs you’re and the most common to vs too) but I will never tolerate messages like “I see ur going to update me page. Thanks!!! :)”

Yes, that was an actual email message I received.

You can choose to claim it’s not “harmful” and do nothing, or you can take a deep breath and educate.

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