“I cn c y schls r against cell phones. Da lang that students use n wrtng is horrible. Im not sayin im 4 cell phones n schl, but im nt ready 2 say im against them. SMH at this argument. I ll TTYL abt phones n schls.”*
How many teachers have seen something like this in an essay turned in by one of your students? I know I have. Can you read it? If you can read the above passage, you are familiar with text language. If not, you need to quickly find a young person to help you, or better yet, you need to ask them to give you a crash course in text language.
You may wonder where all of this started. You may ask yourself when Standard English changed and why no one told you. Below is a brief history of text language.
The first SMS , or text message was sent in the United States in 1992. Those messages were limited to 160 characters. At that time, there was no such feature as “unlimited texting”. Each text message, or those past a certain number, was charged a per text fee. In order to get the intended message across, text language, or a phone short-hand, was developed.
Now, let’s fast-forward to the classroom today. If we look at the background of the students we have, they have grown up in the age of texting and instant messaging. They are used to getting a message out quickly; that’s why they are called the microwave generation. Writing or composition (the better term for it) is not emphasized in all grades and it is not a favorite subject of students. When given a composition assignment, most students like to get it over with as quickly as possible. One way to do that is through text language. The excuse given by students for poor and hurried writing is, “Well, I wrote the paper.”
Why texting is bad for writing? After all, it’s the content that matters. What our students and some adults fail to understand is that there are different types of writing that are appropriate for different situations. Text language is fine for personal writing, but it is not appropriate for academic or business writing. I think this is the beginning of curing this problem in the classroom. We, as teachers of composition, need to differentiate the types of writing with our classes. We need to provide examples of each type of writing and establish they type of writing that will be used in our classrooms at the beginning of the year. After establishing the type of writing that will be used in our classroom, I think we should provide a graphic of banned words and symbols. Each year, teachers spend at least a month correcting the same writing mistakes. I think providing a graphic of banned words and symbols might cut that correcting time significantly. Finally, I think students should be given a target audience for each composition. If students know who they are writing for, they will be more apt to use the correct type of writing.
The above suggestions are just that – suggestions. I too am fighting the battle of text. If anyone has any suggestions to help teachers of writing, please list them in the comment section. I am a lover of writing and I believe several of my students have talent. I just want to be able to read it.
* The message above was written by a poor texter – me! 8-D