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Social Media Is Distorting Our Writing Style

Is every form of change in language evolutionary? Or do we call certain changes in usage and spelling a form of corruption that needs to be discouraged by all lovers of the English language? There are certain rules, such as what is acceptable in spoken language need not be proper in writing, although a certain amount of slang keeps the text from being too academic.

Over the years incessant tweeting, facebooking, and texting have had and are having a tremendous impact on the way students communicate with each other. Not all of which is encouraging. Modern slangs that students use in the social media are finding place in the classrooms and making students terrible writers. Slang terms and text-speak such as IDK (I don’t know), SMH (shaking my head), and BTW (by the way) have become a common sight on student assignments––leaving teachers at a loss of words to explain their predicament and, yes, unsure of how to fix this growing problem. Many teachers have reported a drastic decline in the writing abilities of their students due to their constant interaction in the social media. “They do not capitalize words or use punctuation anymore,” laments an experienced teacher. “Even in emails to teachers or on writing assignments, any word longer than one syllable is now abbreviated to one,” she adds.

Although advocates of slang words may view this trend as an evolution of language, some senior professors have expressed their disapproval, calling the trend “a broken level of communication.” Colleges are flabbergasted to see the kind of admissions essays they’ve been receiving. Admissions officers say that they are taking poorly written essays––deeply rooted in this technological culture of cutoff sentences where you’re writing like you speak––and simply tossing them aside while evaluating.

85 percent of the respondents in a survey of 700 students in the 12–17 age group reported using a form of electronic communication, whether through instant messaging, text messaging, or social media.

So what do students have to say about this? “Growing up in a technological era, we students don’t actually realize that we are using language shortcuts in the classroom,” admits a high school senior. “When we’re using all this social media, we’re not thinking about spelling words right, so naturally that’s going to translate into the classroom.”

Some students are of the opinion that teachers who are older and aren’t familiar with all the social media devices are the ones who are really bothered by this trend, whereas the younger generation of teachers don’t actually mind it.

In the final analysis, holding responsible the technology that facilitates the use of slang is just a futile exercise. Educators should instead develop new teaching techniques that clearly delineate the parameters of formal language usage. For example, allow students opportunities to engage academically both formally and informally (say through the use of Twitter or texting).

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