I find some text speak incredibly irritating and borderline incoherent, such as these gems from a buyer on a TradeMe auction earlier this year:
Is ok i pik it up on wed as ive gt a funural on at da moment
Wn i a gd tme i cn pk u phne?
But I’m not actually a person who believe that language should be frozen in time, that grammar and spelling should be affixed to some arbitrary standard and never change or evolve.
I know that however much we try to insist on picayune points such as ‘nuclear’ rather than ‘nucular’ the language will change by popular usage.
It’s trendy to talk about how ‘youth’ are distorting language and spelling and grammar, how literacy skills are being lost to texting and Twitter and Facebook.
But Clive Thompson on the New Literacy reports some interesting observations:
[Andrea] Lunsford is a professor of writing and rhetoric at Stanford University, where she has organized a mammoth project called the Stanford Study of Writing to scrutinize college students’ prose. From 2001 to 2006, she collected 14,672 student writing samples — everything from in-class assignments, formal essays, and journal entries to emails, blog posts, and chat sessions. Her conclusions are stirring.
“I think we’re in the midst of a literacy revolution the likes of which we haven’t seen since Greek civilization,” she says. For Lunsford, technology isn’t killing our ability to write. It’s reviving it — and pushing our literacy in bold new directions.
The first thing she found is that young people today write far more than any generation before them.
Because writing is and always has been an integral part of my working life it hadn’t occurred to me that many people seldom write anything once they’ve left school — a point that Thompson makes.
But I guess that’s true for plumbers and electricians, car mechanics, farmers and many others who work with their hands. Beyond the odd job sheet, why would they need to be writing?
In the last few years Twitter and Facebook, Instant Messaging, texting, blogs, forums and other venues have likely captured many people who wouldn’t normally be writing.
If a car enthusiast joins a forum to discuss cars then reading and writing forum posts is a valuable way to exchange expertise.
For those more inclined to couch surfing, exchanging reviews and commentary on TV programs, or compiling endless detailed episode guides may be a creative avenue formerly not available.
I like the idea that we’re in the middle of not just a technological revolution, but also a literacy revolution.
The image above is a screenshot from the Battlestar Wiki, a compendium of information gathered by fans of the Battlestar Galactica TV show.
Do you write more than you used to? What do you think of the Thompson article?