Saturday, May 11, 2013

Conversation: Txtng is killing language. JK!!!

If you're a writing teacher, perhaps you've been asked if your students write in "text-speak"; or you've been asked if texting has ruined student writing; or perhaps someone wants to know exactly how you get your students not to text in their papers.

The truth is, my students have no illusions or misunderstandings that texting is the same as formal writing. Yes, they may slip in a "u" or "thru" once in a while. They do this because they're moving fast and they make typos, just like we all do. When I point it out to them, they smile with embarrassment, apologize, and then they fix it. They are not choosing text-speak over formal academic writing; they are not resisting academic conventions because texting is "easier" or "more comfortable." Speaking for my own students, and from my own experience, none of the accusations of laziness, instant gratification culture, or language decline hold true.

So, when I recently watched this TED Talk by the linguist John McWhorter, I felt great relief, excitement, and an even deeper admiration for my students who are learning to communicate effectively with the exploding number of technologies and expectations.

Here's the talk. How do your students learn to navigate and/or violate genre expectations? What do you think about McWhorter's claims?

Txtng is killing language. JK!!!
John McWhorter


  1. I've used this article from The Columbian in classes before. It comes to a similar conclusion about textspeak. That is that, overall, it's nbd.

    My experiences are similar to yours. Students occasionally slip in a "u" instead of a "you," but they have no problem understanding the difference in the styles or why one is more appropriate for academic papers than the other.

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  3. I usually confront this matter at the beginning of a new semester. Texting is a language, I say, but so is academic text and in addition, they will learn new vocabularies and expectations for writing depending on which discipline they choose as a major. So they must develop flexibility in knowing the purpose and audience for their message. Sometimes iit is a text, but sometimes it might be a formal document. The crossover situation, in my opinion, is email. I've received plenty of informal student requests on email that really would not work in a professional environment. This is a shortcoming of mine. I've still not included an assignment of how to write proper emails to the professor!