Lost on my title? Allow me to translate…
“Talk to you later.”
“Because… parent over shoulder.”
(…which means: my mom is staring at the computer screen so don’t type anything that will get either of us in trouble)
My daughter doesn’t realize I speak “text” (or txt, rather) – I like it that way…I keep tabs and she doesn’t realize it. But that’s not for this post. This post is about the idea of discussing writing “conventions” (and presentation, really) with your secondary students. Txt is a language of the young. It is a written language. It is shorthand and electronic. The young live, eat, and breathe this language by cell, IM, and email 24/7. It is their native language – we will not break them of it – we must accept that. Obviously not all conventions or presentation problems found in classroom writing are texting-based, but txt does creep in. The lack of capitalization and punctuation is an acceptable convention of instant messaging and texting as the message box only allows 140 total characters. And capitalization requires several convoluted cell phone key punches. In addition, txt spelling is phonetic to eliminate excess letter characters and the time it takes to formulate a response. When a teen has 14 friends in a chat room – time of response is vital.
I don’t write this to excuse the poor conventions of the Gen Wi-Fi writers, but I do want teachers to understand where their students live. Remember when you were listening to “your” music as a teenager and your parents told you it was awful and to turn it down? You simply rolled your eyes and thought they just had no idea what current life was really about…welcome to current life.
Rather than simply stating that it is unacceptable to turn in work with poor conventions – and editing away the texting habits of a generation – open up a discussion (especially with high school students) – about appropriate time and place for different kinds of writing. In the same way that we use a comma after the greeting in a friendly letter and a colon after the greeting in a business letter, the conventions for punctuation, spelling, etc., change for the digital environment one is in as well. Help students to arrive at examples like: An email to your teacher or boss *should* be clean of “txt”, but an email or IM to his or her friend could be filled with it. Also, you might steer the discussion toward first impression judgments potential employers, college admissions officers, or others of importance in their future might make of the student, if all they had to go on was a piece of writing with misspellings, no capitalization, and no punctuation. If students can understand the authentic reasons for proofreading, editing, and revising, they will be more inclined to voluntarily do it themselves.
(Revised and reposted from my same article on Dennis O’Conner’s 6 Traits Resources Blog)