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Do Texting and “Cyber Slang” Harm Students’ Writing Skills?

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The explosion of social media has completely changed the way we communicate with each other. Whether via laptop computers, advanced mobile devices, Wi-Fi or enhanced 4G wireless networks, we are more connected than ever to everyone we know.

Texting and the slang that goes with it have crept into students' more formal writing.

While this communications boom has been praised for its educational benefits, some argue that a negative side effect is beginning to take hold in our classrooms. Cyber slang is suspected of damaging students’ writing acumen.

Cyber slang is a term used to describe shortcuts, alternative words, or even symbols used to convey thoughts in an electronic document. Because so many digital media limit the number of characters an author can use at a time, students are becoming more creative to get the most out of their limited space. Common cyber-slang terms that have made their way into popular speech include BFF (best friends forever), LOL (laugh out loud) and WTF (what the ____).

“I think it makes sense for these social conversations to be lightweight or light-hearted in terms of the syntax,” said President of Dictionary.com Shravan Goli. “But ultimately, in the world of business and in the world they will live in, in terms of their jobs and professional lives, students will need good, solid reading and writing skills. I’m a little worried about where we are in America with literacy levels dropping. Are these [electronic devices] helping us, or making it worse? I think they may be going the other way and making it worse.”

The Times Daily newspaper cites a recent report from Pew Internet and American Life Project, "Writing, Technology and Teens," which found that the cell phone text-based abbreviated communications teens use are showing up in more formal writing.

One only has to spend about two minutes browsing the public pages of a social media platform like Facebook to find examples of cyber slang. In some cases, a second and third read is required before a sentence begins to make sense. A public Facebook page entitled “If you think the rules at UnionCounty High School are ridiculous,” dealing with school policies in Union, S.C. offers these examples:

“the new policy on dress code they handed out last week is our last chance 2 keep us out of uniforms. the new super intendant as u all know is from spartanburg is using the saturday school crap 2 take a note on how many offenses we have & will use it 2 make her decision. so we ned 2 stop breaking the dress code or we might have 2 really fight uniforms next year.”

“dont worry abt us wearing uniforms nxt year. our parents wont buy them & the district cant even give us the first set cuz our parents pay the taxes & we cant afford them. so get ur parents opinion & make them disagress with uniforms!”

Goli said that while examples like these demonstrate a problem, it is not one that can’t be solved.

“I think that is where we come into play with Dictionary.com,” Goli said. “I have two kids at home. I see them using this technology, and I think there is a lot of value in leveraging that technology for educational purposes. Using these ‘cool’ technologies are great vehicles for teaching kids the proper ways to communicate.”


Article by Jason Tomaszewski, EducationWorld Associate Editor
Education World®    
Copyright © 2011 Education World

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