Texts and Teen Writing Skills

Google texts and teen writing skills and you will get many articles on how texting negatively effects teen’s formal writing skills, all loaded with quotes from teachers about how they have seen the negative impact texting has on these skills.

The most interesting article I found was in the New York Times , printed in 2002 . The arguments made almost ten years ago are still the sames ones you will read about over and over in any article/blog/web forum today. Basically, that the shorthand teens use in text messaging is detrimental to their writing and can be found in written assignments, much to the frustration of their teachers.

But, if you dig a little deeper and read the whole article, you’ll find a different viewpoint about teens and texting. This is the viewpoint I would like to represent. You can find short little blog posts like this, http://edoptions.com/blog/?p=23, that point out that teachers have been complaining about informal language seeping its way into formal language for a very long time. Remember how upset people where when email became a primary source of communication as opposed to letter writing. Teachers and elders thought this was an abomination and that teens would never learn how to write properly.

Who remembers ebonics? (That’s right, I was a teen in the 90’s;-) OMG (had to throw it in) I thought people where going to come to fist fights over that issue- should it become an official language or not? If you’re too young to remember this debate look it up in wikipedia.

Speaking of, isn’t wikipedia itself a current debate in the formal writing process? I tell patrons, adults, teens and college students, that wikipedia is a great jumping point for starting research. I explain that anyone can go on and post something on a wikipedia entry, so this is not a good source to use in a research paper, but that it is an excellent place to start research. I bet some of you are cringing and some of you are nodding your heads.

In my humble opinion, I think teens are reading and writing WAY more than I ever did as a teen. Even though the writing in texts are not essay worthy, hardly any of the writing I do is essay worthy. I mean, come on, I wouldn’t dare turn this post in for a class, but I could easily turn the ideas into a very nice research paper. I put 🙂 and the occassional 😉 in professional emails on a daily basis. I was taught, in grad school, that this are used to display your tone in writing (this was taught especially in regards to online reference services). I believe that getting teens reading and writing in any way possible is a good thing. How many of you used formal English in the notes you passed back and forth in class in grade school? How many of you made up coded language or words, so that if your note was intercepted it would be hard to decipher?

I believe that this is a current debate and in years to come someone will be telling their younger colleagues to look it up in wikipedia (whatever the current source will be).

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One Comment

  1. There was a great opinion piece in The NY Times last spring that I find myself sharing again and again: Teaching to the Text Message by Andy Selsberg (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/20/opinion/20selsberg.html?_r=2&scp=1&sq=writing%20to%20the%20text&st=cse)

    He talks about how he uses twitter and texts as assignments to get students to write concisely. It also makes the work relevant and useful to them in a way that 5 paragraph essays may not be.

    Writing is always changing, and we need to be aware of what writing skills our teens will need in the future — which are not always the ones we needed.

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