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.

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LOL, LOI, COL

Recently, on the Buzz Out Loud podcast there were discussions about the use of LOL when the person using that in an email, text message, etc. is actually LOI (laughing on the inside.) Interestingly enough, the discussion went on over several days and several episodes of the podcast. As the hosts, and those who sent feedback to the show, talked about the way these acronyms are used, it became clear that acronyms of this kind do not get used without putting text into context and doing some critical thinking about the message being sent.

The podcast discussions were all humorous and not totally serious, but, they still got me thinking. So many times adults that don’t use texting or IM complain about the demise of the English language because people are using acronyms instead of full words and phrases. (I have blogged about this before.) But, listening to the Buzz Out Loud discussions it was clear that using these acronyms is not something that happens in a vacuum. And, at times, when the right acronym is not available a new one has to be created. Is it a bad thing if teens actually create new language to fill in when what’s actually available just doesn’t meet their needs?

When adding LOL, LOI, COL, or others to a communication, the writer has to think about which one to use. Is it really that I’m LOL or am I really LOI? Maybe I’m COL? Of course it’s probably pretty rare that one is ROTFL when using that acronym, but the point about what the writer is thinking is pretty clearly made when that set of letters is selected.

What if you talked with teens about how they make choices about the acronyms they use when creating a message to a friend or family member? Do they think about their choices? Do they make different choices based on who they are communicating with? Have they ever created their own acronyms in order to meet a specific need, emotion, or thought? What would you find out about the thought process involved in using acornyms in text, chat, and so on?

BTW, COL stands for chuckling out loud. I’d never heard that one before and the person that sent it in on Buzz Out Loud, mentioned that she and her friends made it up to meet their specific purposes. Anything wrong with that?