A quick scroll through a teenager’s phone, Facebook, or Twitter account might leave you wondering if you have stumbled onto a new foreign language. Many of us understand the basics: LOL, BRB, U for you, etc. I use some of them too, especially when my characters are limited (such as Twitter), but never, ever in formal writing. It’s just not acceptable.
When I taught middle school, I encountered a lot of this “not appropriate for the audience” writing (and speaking). I patiently explained the difference between hallway conversation and classroom conversation; the difference between speaking with your family and speaking at a job interview; and the difference between composing a note or text to your friend and turning in an essay in my class. Yet, I’d still get a short answer to “What is mitosis?” that looked like this:
a typ of ceL divisN dat rslts n two dAutr cells Ech havN d sAm # & kind of chromosomes az d parNt nucleus
So, I finally gave in. No, no, no, I did not accept this kind of writing on school work, but I gave the kids a chance to get it out of their system. I assigned a one page essay and it was to be written entirely in text speak. After that, “u” “b/c” “dem” was not allowed. Ever. (For the record, this was graded by peer review, because I’m not sure I could have read 75 essays in full text speak without having a seizure of some sort.)
It really helped put their writing and communication methods into perspective for my students. After the text speak assignment, I asked them to write the same essay using proper grammar. Then I asked, “Which of these versions is going to get you a job? Into college? An A in my class?”
Whether you want to embrace text speak or not, is entirely your choice. I think that the important lesson is to help your student distinguish when it is appropriate to use it and when it absolutely not. There are times when writing in a different tone is required. This blog post would not be so conversational were it a press release. Teaching your child to know the difference is the key.
P.S. Don’t tell your teen I told you this, but I’ve found an online translator: http://transl8it.com/ It might just help you decipher their text messages.
Crystal Pratt is an independent contractor with Calvert Education Services. She has been involved in education for 20 years. Crystal is a certified teacher, a writer, and a lover of all things that sparkle.