Language of the Net Generation

Is the proliferation of text messaging hurting kids' writing skills?

The English language is an evolving one that often adapts to the times. This evolution is by no means a new trend. William Shakespeare was known for creating new words that caught on and were adapted into everyday speech. Likewise, the abbreviated words and acronyms used in text messages and e-mails today are just that, a modification of language.

This quick communication is fi ne for casual conversation. However, what happens when kids start replacing proper English with acronyms at school? Is technology contributing to the demise of people’s command of the English language, or is it heightening people’s creativity?

SMS language, or the use of text messages, began as a simple way for kids to chat in cryptic codes their parents couldn’t understand. The trend soon caught on, and it’s become a widely accepted form of communication. According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, teens from 12-17 years send and receive 60 text messages a day.

Although brevity is at the heart of American expression, text acronyms offer much ambiguity. We asked readers who are older than those of the Net Generation to decode popular acronyms. Check out their quirky answers.

PPL: People
Please Please Leave –Sam M., 58
Pretty Poor Language –Ray W., 56

SMH: Shaking My Head
So Much Happened –Sam M., 58

AMOF: As a Matter of Fact
A Multitude of Fun –Sam M., 58
Am Off Facebook –Cindy Z., 61
All My Office Friends –Janet D., 66

BRB: Be Right Back
Bring Beer –Lori, 52

ROTFL: Rolling on the Floor Laughing
Ream Out the Foolish Loser –Joe C., 56

NM: Nevermind
No Money –Lori, 52

LOL: Laugh Out Loud
Lots of Laughs –Bob P., 59

WYWH: Wish You Were Here
When You Write Home –Ray W., 56

GG: Gotta Go
Giggles –Cindy Z., 61
Good Girl –Cindy C., 56

GB: Goodbye
Gigabyte –Janet D., 66
Good Boy –Kerrie C., 56

MGMT: Management
MGM Theater –Cindy Z., 61
Magic Mountain –Cynthia C., 59

TTYL: Talk to You Later
Through the Years Lyrics –Jeremy Z., 34

JW: Just Wondering
Just Whining –Ray W., 56

 

As commonplace and convenient as it’s become, texting has its detriments. It’s widely believed that this technological phenomenon is hindering kids’ ability to correctly write prose, essays and even simple sentences. Textese often subverts letters and numbers to create ultra-short words and sentiments, such as “u” for “you” and “thnx” for “thanks.” A possible direct effect is that adolescents no longer utilize and practice proper grammar, which has led to underdeveloped writing skills and poor spelling. Additionally, text lingo, such as “gr8,” is popping up in academic assignments. For many, it seems that capitalization, punctuation and correct sentence structure are things of the past.

According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, teens from 12-17 years send and receive 60 text messages a day.

According to a recent New York Times study, schoolchildren’s reading scores have almost plateaued, while math scores have significantly increased. Is it merely a coincidence that kids are texting more and reading less? Or could all those OMGs and TTYLs be to blame?

Some teachers, however, are embracing SMS, impressed that today’s youth creatively formed a new language. SMS has brought a new level of convenience, quickness and creativity to society. According to an August 2008 Newsweek article by Lily Huang, a 2007 British experiment on children who texted with plenty of abbreviations scored higher on reading and vocabulary tests. In fact, the more adept they were at abbreviating, the better they did in spelling and writing.

Yet the question remains: Is texting good or bad? At this point, there’s no clear-cut answer. What is decided is that parents need to reinforce writing and reading lessons taught in school as well as follow up with their child’s teacher for progress reports.

For now, text messages are part of our culture. I say we embrace SMS as an effective communication tool while paying extra attention to our kid’s literary lessons.