Texting: Ppl, Srsly, It’s OK 2 Uz TxtSpk Sumtimz



Text speak gets a bad rap.

It’s been pegged as barbaric, accused of ruining the English language, identified as a symbol of the millennial generation’s laziness, and perhaps worst of all, it’s been strung up as the next bad habit liable to rot kids’ brains.

That puts it in the same category as American English, according to Prince Charles, and rock ’n’ roll, according to conservative evangelical parents of the 1950s—two institutions that turned out pretty okay, according to the majority.

So then, is the phenomenon of using shortcuts, homophones, and the omission of non-essential letters in what’s usually but not exclusively digital communication really such a terrible thing?

Or for those fluent in text speak:

LOL. So then iz d phenomenon of UzN shortcuts, homophones & d omission of non-essential letters n what’s usu bt not exclusively digital cmUnik8shn rly such a terrible tng.

Researchers from Coventry University in England don’t seem to think so. In fact, they argue the contrary, asserting that text speak is actually beneficial to the way that children interact with language.

More specifically, after assessing primary and secondary school children annually for two years, they “found no evidence of a link between poor grammar when texting and the actual grammatical understanding of UK children.” What they did find was that “children’s use of text speak is not only positively associated with word reading ability, but it may be contributing to reading development.”

The astounding results motivated the Scottish Qualifications Authority to, in a shocking move, accept text speak on English tests as long as the answers demonstrated that students understood the subject. The New Zealand Qualifications Authority followed suit, giving partial credit for text speak answers that showed understanding but lacked grammatical correctness.

These über progressive boards still remain exceptions to the rule though. For the most part, it’s still expected that text speak make no cameo appearances on any kind of formal examination.

So when is text speak appropriate then?

John McWhorter, an associate professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University, would argue that this shorthand of sorts is fair game when you’re communicating in a manner that channels the speed and flow of typical conversations. That’s because he’s a firm believer that text speak is not so much a bastardization of our beloved written language, but a language of its own.

In a TED talk he delivered in 2013, he explains how “the miraculous thing” is developing its own grammar and conventions and should be more closely identified as “fingered speech” than as writing.