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Friday, May 22, 2009

Real world, beware the text generation

I’ve been a part of several conversations lately talking about the texting craze among today’s young people. Wherever a teenager is found, a cell phone will be found attached to said teenager’s hands or located no more than a few inches away.

In light of all the abbreviating, OMGing, and GR8ing that takes place in the average text, will these teenagers ever be ready for the real world, where spelling and grammar matter? Or will “textese” seep further into business writing with every passing year?

Language purists, take note. The English language has been vandalized for centuries. Texting will most likely lead to an evolution in the English language, but so did the advent of printing and the British colonists’ population of America. Change can be good in healthy doses.

This leads me to my second point, which will hopefully bring some real relief to the purists. At least two studies – one published in the March 2009 issue of the British Journal of Developmental Psychology, and another conducted by the University of Toronto in 2006, indicate that texting does not harm texters’ language skills. In fact, texting may actually improve kids’ reading and vocabulary skills.

The theory is that exposure to and use of language – even through texting – makes children more verbally skilled. Beverly Plester, lead author of the British study, says, “We tend to get better at things that we do for fun.” Likewise, David Crystal, author of Txtng: the Gr8 Db8, says, “Before you can write abbreviated forms effectively and play with them, you need to have a sense of how the sounds of your language relate to the letters.”

I must admit that as a writer, I’m one of those people who have feared the impending demise of the English language when the text generation joins the real world. But perhaps I need to relax. The English language might be in good hands, after all.