The Usage of Textisms Is Not Causing Illiteracy

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Running head: THE USAGE OF TEXTISMS IS NOT CAUSING ILLITERACY

The Usage of Textisms is Not Causing Illiteracy in Young People ASB 344

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Running head: THE USAGE OF TEXTISMS IS NOT CAUSING ILLITERACY

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The Usage of Textisms is Not Causing Illiteracy in Young People Recently, cell-phone SMS texting has become an indispensable tool in communication among young people as it has surpassed all other common forms of interaction in frequency of use. According to Pew Research Center‟s communication study on texting, “fully 72% of all teens – or 88% of teen cell phone users – are textmessagers. That is a sharp rise from the 51% of teens who were texters in 2006” (Lenhart, Ling, Campbell, & Purcell, 2010). This growth has parents and educators concerned that the short message format of texting is causing kids to become bad spellers and writers because they are constantly using abbreviations, acronyms, emoticons, and other tools to most efficiently put their thoughts and feelings into 160 characters or less. The logic is that kids will never learn to spell properly if they are constantly using “TXT SP3EAK”, and their ability to fully develop their thoughts in “real” writing will suffer as they are continuously practicing to put their thoughts into as few characters as possible. Naysayers are also apprehensive that textisms will make their way into formal writing and irrevocably damage the English language. Fortunately, there is evidence to the contrary, that the increasingly popular new “text-speak” language is not contributing to bad spelling and writing in young people; rather, it may be increasing their linguistic ability.

Texting has often been labeled the modern scourge of language by popular news articles that have parents worried that giving their child a text capable cell phone will hinder them on their path towards literacy. It makes sense because most texts sent by kids are barely legible to adults and are written in a new text language of abbreviation and acronyms, hardly proper English. If that is the kind of writing that they are

Running head: THE USAGE OF TEXTISMS IS NOT CAUSING ILLITERACY

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persistently being exposed to, will that not destroy any hope of them becoming proficient at spelling and writing in standard English? There is one particularly notorious incident of text language “destroying” regular English that challengers of texting love to use. It is a school essay written by 13-year-old Scottish pupil. This is an excerpt of what she turned in:

My smmr hols wr CWOT. B4, we used 2 go 2 NY 2C my bro, his GF & thr 3 : -@ kds FTF. ILNY, its gr8.
Bt my Ps wr so {:-/ BC o 9/11 tht thay dcdd 2 stay in SCO & spnd 2 wks up N. Up N, WUCIWUG -- 0. I ws vvv brd in MON. 0 bt baas &. (Ward, 2004). This is a perfect example of what a typical text message looks like written in textisms. Unfortunately, it was completely inappropriate in a school assignment and that is what has parents and educators concerned, that more and more children will start writing like this indiscriminately to the detriment of standard English literacy. Given that text messaging appears to be an unstoppable trend in communication at the moment, it is comforting to know that it has been shown that school children are not adversely affected in spelling and writing by their ventures in textisms. A study from the journal of Reading & Writing by Varnhagen et al. (2009) is based on data collected from instant messaging, but it is relevant because the language shortcuts used in instant messaging are the same ones used by texters. The researchers collected instant messaging conversations between adolescents for one week and then administered a spelling test. They found that “spelling ability was not related to use of new language in instant messaging…and the results provide partial evidence that new language does not have a harmful effect on conventional written language” (Varnhagen et al., 2009).

Running head: THE USAGE OF...
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