Have you ever used “idk” or “bc” in an article? Have you ever used “lol” in a professional email, even by accident?
If so, you’re not alone. The proliferation of short-form communications, such as those found in text messaging and on Twitter, has resulted in the widespread usage of abbreviations and Internet slang. Whether or not you use these methods, you are constantly bombarded by this verbiage, which clearly deviates from the traditional way of communicating. Even businesses otherwise legitimate outlets frequently communicate using these methods, blurring the line of the acceptability of short-form writing.
Although this form of writing is everything that the Information Age desires – quickness, brevity, ease of comprehension – communicating in this way can actually be damaging to your writing health. That’s true whether you’re a student, an office worker or even a freelance web content provider.
What’s the Problem?
It’s like anything else – once you learn how to do something one way, it’s hard to shift gears and do that thing a different way. You develop habits that carry over into your normal writing. Improper sentence structure, not capitalizing names or places, and the absence of punctuation are just a few of the side effects of using the colloquial Internet language.
Okay, so you say text one way and write a different way. You think you can keep things separate. The reality is, it’s very difficult to do. Teachers and school administrators report that they often find elements of texting language in the papers their students write, which clearly shows the power that habits can play in writing. While a formal paper is clearly different from a text message, students and professionals need to be diligent in their proofreading. Even one instance of Internet lingo can turn a great paper into an average one.
And what about Twitter, the medium that requires you to communicate in 140 characters or less? Everyone uses it – celebrities, writers, media representatives and ordinary people. And on Twitter, you almost have to take shortcuts to get your message across.
Twitter is damaging on two fronts. Not only do you have the risk of developing unorthodox writing habits, but all you have to do is look around you and you’ll see countless reasons to throw away your grammar books. Athletes, movie stars and musicians all emphasize convenience and style over good grammar. So, then, why would you remain steadfast in writing the right way?
It’s so critical to remember that, although Twitter comes across in the written form, Twitter isn’t writing. If you pay enough attention to what other people are posting, it can destroy your ability to write clearly and eloquently when you need to do so. Twitter is a great tool, but you need to take the writing skills of the majority of Tweeters with a major grain of salt.
Besides, it isn’t all that bad. People may text and tweet in a way that doesn’t exactly represent perfect grammar, but at least they’re writing. Just because people carry over a few flaws into their regular writing doesn’t take away from the positive aspects. People who ordinarily wouldn’t write are now writing multiple times every day for the world to see. They’re learning how to get their messages across quickly and concisely, all while avoiding the filler that is the telltale sign of bad writing. So even if you occasionally exclaim a “wtf?” at some of the writing you see, put it into the proper context. Some great writers are honing their chops through this technology, and in the grand scheme of things, maybe writing in shorthand isn’t so bad after all.
Bryan B is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.