Textese: Language Vandalism or a Gr8 Way 4 Ppl to Spk 2 Othr Ppl?

Can U Rd Ths?

Yes, but I choose not to.

Textese, SMS speak, text speak—call it what you will, but each lazy abbreviation I come across makes my heart cry sad little tears. Abbreviations are tolerable in text messages because I’m very good at deleting and forgetting, but they’re impossible to avoid on the internet.

cell phone

I admit I’m guilty of a few shortcuts myself. Writing for the web is not the same as writing for print. People read differently—they scan text instead of reading every word, so they need headings, sentence fragments, short paragraphs, bullet lists and lots of bold type to hold their attention.

But what readers don’t need is a complete assault on the English language. Twitter aside, there aren’t many places on the internet where you get a gold star for writing as little as possible. Even on Twitter it’s not hard to write 140 characters worth of real words—just choose better words. They might not form a perfect sentence, but there’s really no need to write anything resembling “UR the best LOL! C U 2nite?” If you can’t even write a short sentence, why would I bother reading what you have to say?

Abbreviating isn’t a new idea and neither is the creation of new words. Shakespeare invented thousands of new words and phrases, but the difference here is that he didn’t just pare down old words. He showed a little creativity by using his extended vocabulary to make language more evocative and precise, and I bet his language-play didn’t result in him forgetting that “tonite” isn’t how you’re actually supposed to spell it.

Text speak isn’t creative, evocative or precise, and it’s not even nice to look at. I love the shapes of letters and how a sentence looks in its full form. I love finding the perfect word and I love how “people” sounds better than “ppl.” For me, words are visual and text speak ruins the joy of language.

When I was a kid, there were tons of words floating around the playground. “Gibble,” “Pshaw” (although we always spelled it Chaw), “Not!” and “ICUP” became staples of our vocabulary—our verbal vocabulary. We knew these words were for our ears only and that they should never creep their way into exams, book reports or anything else an adult would read. We respected the language enough to leave it on the playground.

So why is it okay now?