Language Rules

Definately Fixing Alot Of Americas Grammar 1 Word At A Thyme

tx 4 readng thiz

with 2 comments


Last week I decided to clean out one corner of the basement by giving away about 200 excess cookbooks I’ve accumulated from auction purchases over the years. Toward that end, I sent a message out to the local Freecycle group, offering cookbooks to all interested parties. Several of the messages I received in reply were written along these lines:

“i’d like 2 have some of ur books, tx 4 the offer, i cn b by 2 pick thm up 2day”

I have a teenage daughter, so I’m fully acquainted with IM-speak, which is meant to be typed quickly and to look cool as well as to communicate. And, as a sender of cell-phone text messages, I can appreciate the need to abbreviate on occasion.

But my tolerance wanes when we’re talking about e-mail messages — particularly those intended to transact personal business or communicate about work issues. Maybe it’s just me, and I’m showing my 40-somethingness, but I didn’t feel that the above sorts of responses were appropriate to the situation. Perhaps it was the fact that these answers didn’t match the tone in which I made my offer. Had my message said

“hey, freecyclers, i’ve got 2 many kool cookbooks & want 2 share with u”

then sure, I’d expect something similar from respondents. But my message didn’t resemble that in the slightest.

I’m concerned that young people may be so immersed in IM-speak that they’re letting it color the style they use for other communication. Like it or not, at some point, they’ll need to write serious, formal letters and/or e-mail messages to coworkers, potential employers, and others, and I’m afraid they won’t know how.

Just for the heck of it, I wrote the following pretend letter:

Dear Alphonse:

I’m writing to express my pleasure at seeing you recently. Our conversation was most enjoyable, and I hope we’ll be able to get together for lunch some day soon. You can reach me by e-mail or phone. Please give my best to Prudence.



Then, I asked my daughter to translate it (with a certain amount of license) into IM-speak. Here’s her version:

hey a – that waz kool I got 2 meet u ur kool 2 talk 2 n mby we can go 2 the moviez some time. u should call me to msg me. who r u friends w/on myspace? send me a friend request, k? tell Prudy I said hey. ttyl lyl <3 TiFfANy

She assures me that she knows the difference between “correct” writing and the sort of writing that’s appropriate for informal situations, and I believe she does. But she gets almost no practice with formal letters — especially those written on paper and sent by snail mail. Many kids never have these kinds of conversations with their parents and may never receive any instruction in the finely tuned variations of written interpersonal communication.

When today’s teenagers become tomorrow’s employees, and they dash off a quick e-mail to the boss without enough thought or respond to a job interview with an inappropriately casual note, will they understand why the response is negative? I don’t think so. But at least they cn IM thr frnds & tlk about how OMG the boss iz a lzer.

Written by tiffanytaylor

2006 Sep 8 at 08:04

2 Responses

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  1. While the first email is grammatically correct, it is, if I may say so, quite dull. On the other hand, your daughter’s version is alive, upbeat, and has a strong voice, particularly with the improvised “who r u friends w/on myspace?” I’m still ROFL.


    2006 Sep 9 at 03:36

  2. Some research that was reported in Britain the other day concluded that “Text message “shorthand” may help youngsters to improve their literary skills. Far from eroding children’s language, as widely feared, texting can increase children’s phonetic awareness and linguistic creativity.” Seems surprising as IM-speak appears to strip language of everything but the bare minimum and reduce communication to cliches. It must have hidden depths.


    2006 Sep 13 at 10:20

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