Thursday, March 25, 2010

Texting vs. Writing

Texting has become so prevalent that a teenage girl has been diagnosed with carpal tunnel due to the amount of texts she sends daily. I think it’s safe to assume that not all 2,000 of her monthly texts were grammatically correct. In fact, I read an article recently that referenced a website to help you “create text messages” in case you aren’t familiar with the new language. An increasing number of teachers are expressing concern about the impact that texting has on students’ grammar.




As a grammar fanatic, it has always bothered me to see sentences and words broken up to save time via email, text messages, and instant messaging software. I understand that the world now relies heavily on these programs for communication, and not everyone feels as strongly as I do about proper grammar. However, it is quite common that students confuse texting and writing to be the same thing. The truth is that they are incredibly different. Syntax (sentence structure) is affected by this new language of instant chatting, and I hope to clear up some of the confusion.

It isn’t easy to always write out a complete sentence when you’re sending a text message. Most of the time, it’s best to keep it as short and to-the-point as possible, but it is also important to understand the difference between texting and correct grammar.

Text Example 1: u comin 2nite?!

Text Example 2: lol yea b/c u r drivin me - thx ttyl

I realize that my examples are the most extreme types of texts and the furthest away from proper grammar that I could possibly get, but I know that you understand what the texts are implying. I didn’t have to spell the words out and use proper punctuation, because I knew that the message would get across with less effort on my part. The problem is, if a student is writing like this 100+ times on a daily basis, then he or she is likely to struggle with writing a formal essay.



1. The first thing to be aware of is capitalizing the first letter of each sentence in your essay. It can become a habit to text without capitalizing anything. Most of the time, the automatic spellchecker in your word processing software will correct these mistakes. However, pay attention to the following types of words that also must always be capitalized.

Days of the week: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc.
Months: January, February, March, etc.
Holidays: St. Patrick’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, etc.
Cities, States, Countries: Dover, Delaware, United States of America

Never use ALL CAPS in an essay unless you are referring to an acronym. As stated in previous blog entries, italics should be used for emphasis, but not excessively. For commonly used words that are accepted as either capitalized or lowercase, the most important thing is to remain consistent.

Incorrect: The World Wide Web has helpful resources that can broaden your array of knowledge on any particular issue. Use a search engine to locate which websites are available to you on the web.

Since I capitalized World Wide Web, then I should have been consistent and capitalized the other words relating to the internet. I could have chosen to use lowercase letters, as long as I remained consistent throughout the paper.

For further information on capitalization, visit this site.



2. I’m not sure when the trend of leaving the g off of –ing words started, but it is common today in the texting world. If one were to do this in an essay (using it as a reference to southern dialect of a particular character, for instance), then there would be an apostrophe in place of the g. In fact, anytime a letter is omitted from a word, it still needs to be represented by an apostrophe.

Example: “I’m thinkin’ ‘bout gettin’ some goats,” said the farmer.

As you can see, the omission of letters only took place in quotation marks because I wanted the true accent of the farmer to come out strongly in the dialect. However, it should never happen in a formal essay without character dialogue (unless you have a specific quote from someone or a scholarly source that uses this dialect).



3. It is acceptable to use abbreviations in text messages, but remember to always spell out words in essays. It may seem ridiculous to you that I even have to put this in here, but teenagers that are getting into the habit of writing poorly due to texting is a growing problem in America. The more you see texts and emails come to your phone or laptop with abbreviations instead of real words, the more comfortable you will be with writing this way, and you may forget to correct your errors in your essays.

Example: The president said the new health care bill will benefit many Americans b/c it will mandate health insurance for everyone by 2014.

Obviously, b/c cannot be used in a formal essay in place of because. You might not catch it if you are used to typing this way. Be aware that these mistakes can happen.



4. Whenever possible, write all of your emails and text messages using full words instead of abbreviations. Try to make complete sentences when you have time to do so. The more you write correctly, the easier it will be when you have to sit down to write a paper, and the less effort you will have to make when you proofread to look for these mistakes.



5. See Punctuation Marks regarding the use of punctuation in your essays. Remember, never use an exclamation point together with another punctuation mark, and don’t repeat them. In addition, I want to clarify the use of an ellipsis (…).

I see ellipses used on Facebook and Twitter status updates all the time. They are usually used in modern texting language to represent a pause or often just to show the end of a statement.

Example: went shopping today…… didn’t find nething on sale..

Again, notice anything is spelled incorrectly, which is quite common in the texting language. However, the ellipses are also used incorrectly. First, whenever you use an ellipsis, make sure it has only three periods. It shouldn’t be any more or any less than three. Next, only use it to show omission of words in a quote.

Full Quotation: It is very important to generate a good attitude, and a good heart, as much as possible. From this, happiness in both the short term and the long term for both yourself and others will come.

Shorter Quotation: It is very important to generate a good attitude … as much as possible. From this, happiness … will come.

Using ellipses in the above example allowed me to still get the point across without using the entire quotation. This would be very useful if you were writing an argumentative essay and you wanted to leave out irrelevant parts of a quote so that they wouldn’t take attention away from your argument.

If an ellipsis is used at the end of a quotation to show omitted words at the end of the phrase, then no other punctuation is needed after it.

Example: “It is very important to generate a good attitude…” said the Dalai Lama.

Be sure to check the rules about using an ellipsis in the handbook of your assigned format for research papers. MLA requires the use of brackets [ ] around the ellipsis in certain instances, while APA and Chicago Manual have different requirements.



6. Sometimes when writing an email or a text message, it is easier to write and over and over instead of ending a sentence and beginning a new one. Don’t let this cause you to write a lot of run-on sentences in your essays. One coordinating conjunction should suffice in each sentence. If you find more than one, you may need to revise the phrase to be two or more separate sentences.

1 comment:

  1. I am a current college student and I am doing a research paper on the effects of texting on formal writing and I was wondering if you have came across any examples of how texting has in fluenced formal writing.

    ReplyDelete