Prof. Anne Curzan reassures us that the sky is not falling -- that textspeak is not bringing chaos and anarchy to the language -- and discusses how she empowers students by recognizing that texting, like more formal writing, follows meaningful conventions:

As a linguist who studies the history of the English language, I reassured the students that they are not ruining the English language, no matter what they hear from their parents or teachers or other trustworthy and concerned authorities....

The changes in written English—and to a lesser extent spoken English—caused by texting and other electronically mediated communication (EMC) strike me as more interesting than worrisome.

...

Savvy EMC users have developed a set of written conventions that usefully serve their purposes when texting, instant messaging, Facebook posting, and the like.... College students ... consider it very uncool to use EMC language in inappropriate places....

It is also pretty uncool, students stress, not to be adept at the written conventions of EMC if you are going to text, instant message, Facebook post, and the like. One student noted that his dad texts like a junior-high-school airhead. His dad, it appears, doesn’t yet have control of the stylistic choices that constitute “sophisticated texting.” For several semesters now, I have asked students to compile with me a list of EMC etiquette rules, and I am struck by how detailed, creative, and consistent the rules are.

...

That younger students might mistakenly slip into texting language in a more formal paper, especially if it is typed online, is not surprising to me; part of elementary and secondary education is learning how to navigate between spoken language and written language, as well as among different levels of formality and different registers in each....

When I do the etiquette-rule exercise with college students, they are struck by how much implicit knowledge they have of EMC conventions—and how they judge others who do not yet adhere to the conventions effectively. I note for them that the conventions of formal academic writing are just another set of rules for writing well in a specific register—maybe not as “fun” as EMC but not in any way an alien exercise.

Why not do this with students earlier in their education? Such an activity empowers students by articulating explicitly the knowledge they bring with them, and builds a bridge to what can otherwise seem like an unfamiliar activity: learning the conventions of formal academic prose.... We can recognize what students know as well as what they have yet to learn about the choices they make as writers to communicate effectively in different spaces.

(from "Txtng Rules", from The Chronicle of Higher Education)

Tags: English, conventions, empowering students, language, linguistics, registers, teaching, texting, textspeak, txtng, More…writing

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