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Text Messaging: Bad Spelling or Destroying the English Language?

written by: JKLlewthor • edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • updated: 8/2/2012

Is text messaging destroying the English language? Numerous protectors of the integrity of English have certainly suspected so, and such concerns are raised constantly in the media. This article finds out the extent to which text language poses a threat to English as we currently know it.

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    The Concern

    There is an increasing concern that the birth of a heavily abbreviated text messaging language could bring about severe problems for the English language in the near future. One could argue that such fears are founded upon mere parochialism among the middle class, yet the evidence to suggest that text language is having a detrimental impact upon English is highly compelling.

    Journalists across the globe have condemned the casual usage of text language in formal mediums such as emails, yet the world only seems to have recently started to take notice. Could it be that the prevalence of text language is leading not only to poor spelling but also to the death of the English language as we know it?

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    The Death of Grammar?

    It is a recognized fact, of course, that text language can be a quick and efficient method of communicating with one another in an informal environment. Abbreviations such as ‘tbh’ instead of ‘to be honest or ‘u’ instead of ‘you’ are certainly practical ones in the hectic lifestyles of the denizens of the twenty-first century. There simply isn't the time to write messages in full, many will argue, yet it is feared that these lazy spelling forms are gradually penetrating the official English language.

    According to Job Bank USA, numerous employers have complained of the sheer volume of job applications they receive written in text language [1]. In particular they note that many applicants have a tendency to speak informally and use text message abbreviations, giving the impression that they are corresponding with an old friend rather than a potential employer. Such prospective applicants seem therefore poorly educated, lazy, and unprofessional. Needless to say, in most cases such applications are thrown in the bin and never thought of again.

    Yet the U.K.'s online Daily Mail [2] claimed in an article that this casual, lazy usage of text language outside of the world of mobile phones is becoming something of a contagious disease. Phrases such as ‘lol’ and ‘k’ (meaning ‘laugh out loud’ and ‘okay’ respectively) are being used increasingly in speech and in email correspondence. The result is that many employees and prospective employees appear highly unprofessional in the work place, particularly when corresponding with their superiors.

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    Optimistic Research

    However, despite the issues in and out of the workplace already created by text language, some researchers claim that in reality one need have little to worry about. For example, Kate Baggot writes in the MIT-published website Technology Review [3] that text language and the mediums through which it is employed (instant messengers, Facebook, cell phones) are encouraging literacy among the younger generation: ‘’There is simply much more pressure to know how to read.’’ Some conservative consumers may find this to be an overly trite or optimistic viewpoint, yet one cannot deny that these text language mediums have attracted droves of youngsters to reading and writing at an early age.

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    English Will Not Yield Easily

    Other than the concerns being raised by employers across the globe, the long-term damage that text language could inflict upon English remains for the most part yet to be seen. It is, however, undeniable that the presence of text language, for all its minor benefits, is leading to a more lazy approach to correspondence, especially among younger generations. Fortunately there is no shortage of defenders of the English language--and not only in the UK and the US. Many teachers, journalists, and employers are anxious to maintain its integrity. Those tempted to slip into text language on a regular basis must bear in mind that such culture warriors are very much aware of its presence and all the more likely to chastise those who employ it inappropriately.

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    References

    1. Codesman, Diane. Job Bank USA: http://www.jobbankusa.com/News/Employment/text_language_harms_employment_chances.html
    2. Clark, Laura. Online Mail. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1094174/Two-thirds-teachers-allow-children-use-slang-text-message-speak-school-tests.html
    3. Baggot, Kate. Technology Review. Literacy and Text Messaging: http://www.technologyreview.com/biztech/17927/