by Margo Ruter
Most of us still remember playing Snake on a Nokia, but there is a growing population of adolescents who have always known how to text. This “net generation” is the first to have completely grown up with the Internet and cell phones. While 47% of them can draft a text message blindfolded, members of other generations are skeptical about this hindering their future writing skills. These teens help send the 75 billion text messages that are sent per month in the United States. This could have various effects on the future of young texters. Either 4th graders around the country are going to start taking AP English, or the name Ke$ha will start to look grammatically correct. What’s all this texting doing to American English? Not a thing to auto-spell check, it still puts that red line under the word, “texting.”
Researchers at California State University had a similar question in mind when they sought out to discover just how so much texting affects both formal and informal facets of writing. Taking two separate study groups, researchers reviewed both formal and informal writing samples from individuals in Los Angeles. The demographics of the sample group were similar to the ethnic backgrounds and education levels of the L.A. area.
Both formal and informal writing samples were taken from each group and graded on a scale from 1 to 6. Ratings from 1 to 1.5 were considered short, non-responsive answers were removed from the sample. Only responses that rated between 2 and 6 were used in the study.
The main hypothesis of the study was that “there would be a significant positive relationship between reported textism use in daily electronic communication and informal writing, and a negative correlation with the quality of formal writing.” A related research question dealt with whether these relationships were based on education level or writing medium.
The writing samples were thoroughly studied and analyzed. Researchers looked at every detail of the writing including things like:
-use of acronyms
-lack of apostrophes
-smilies 🙂 and emoticons
After highlighting these elements, they totaled the number of linguistic and contextual textisms and also looked at the individuals’ monthly cell phone and text message use.
One major finding of the research states that women use nearly twice as many shorthand textisms in electronic communication as men. Explaining why this happened is beyond the scope of the research, but we could bet that the researchers are losing a little bit of sleep over it. Does it have to do with classic cognitive differences between genders? Is it purely a communicative trait specific to respective gender? I’m sure we’ll find out in a few years.
The bottom line is that more texting and shorthand writing in electronic communication related to worse formal writing and better informal writing. So instead of this leading to the ultimate death of prose, Rosen et al., suggest this could mean the growth of a new type of writing in the English language. This is good news for Creative Writing teachers, but bad news for English teachers.
What the article didn’t address was the issue of spelling. This was a huge oversight if you ask us, but no one did. How are words such as “2nite” and “thnx” going to be spelled in five years?
You might also be thinking, “Yeah, well I text like that because I’m in a hurry.” Right, but some people actually communicate with one another this way:
Taken from my personal news feed on Facebook, this is case-in-point displaying the dangerous road our language might be taking in the wake of electronic communication.
You might have cringed at that terrible display of communication, but you might think next time you write “lol” when you have nothing else to say. Formal language skills are crucial in professional careers and we sure as hell don’t want people like this writing project plans, press releases, resumes, budget proposals or any formal document for that matter.
Writing “lyk dis” gives the impression that you’re a raging idiot and completely discredits your writing. So take the extra millisecond and start writing “like this” – we know you’re not that busy.
The Relationship Between “Textisms” and Formal and Informal Writing Among Young Adults
by: Larry D. Rosen, Jennifer Chang, Lynne Erwin, L. Mark Carrier and Nancy A. Cheever
California State University, Dominguez Hills
Communication Research 2010 37: 420