Archive for Friday, April 25, 2008

Not all :) as informal writing creeps into schools

April 25, 2008


— It's nothing to LOL about: Despite best efforts to keep school writing assignments formal, two-thirds of teens admit in a survey that emoticons and other informal styles have crept in.

The Pew Internet and American Life Project, in a study released Thursday, also found that teens who keep blogs or use social-networking sites like Facebook or News Corp.'s MySpace have a greater tendency to slip nonstandard elements into assignments.

The results may give parents, teachers and others a big :( - a frown to the rest of us - though the study's authors see hope.

"It's a teachable moment," said Amanda Lenhart, senior research specialist at Pew. "If you find that in a child's or student's writing, that's an opportunity to address the differences between formal and informal writing. They learn to make the distinction ... just as they learn not to use slang terms in formal writing."

Half of the teens surveyed say they sometimes fail to use proper capitalization and punctuation in assignments, while 38 percent have carried over the shortcuts typical in instant messaging or e-mail messages, such as "LOL" for "laughing out loud." A quarter of teens have used :) and other emoticons.

Overall, 64 percent have used at least one of the informal elements in school.

Teens who consider electronic communications with friends as "writing" are more likely to carry the informal elements into assignments than those who distinguish the two.

The study was co-sponsored by the National Commission on Writing at the College Board, the nonprofit group that administers the SAT and other placement tests.

The chairman of the commission's advisory board, Richard Sterling, said the rules could possibly change completely within a generation or two: Perhaps the start of sentences would no longer need capitalization, the way the use of commas has decreased over the past few decades. "Language changes," Sterling said.

Defying conventional wisdom, the study also found that the generation born digital is shunning computer use for most assignments. About two-thirds of teens say they typically do their school writing by hand. And for personal writing outside school, longhand is even more popular - the preferred form for nearly three-quarters of teens.

That could be because the majority of writing is short - school assignments are on average a paragraph to a page in length, Lenhart said.

Among other findings:

¢ Teens who keep blogs are more likely to engage in personal writing. They also tend to believe that writing will prove crucial to their eventual success in life.

¢ Parents are more likely than teens to believe that Internet-based writing, such as e-mail and instant messaging, affects writing overall, though both groups are split on whether the electronic communications help or hurt. Nonetheless, 73 percent of teens and 40 percent of parents believe Internet writing makes no difference either way.


gr 9 years, 11 months ago

"Overall, 64 percent have used at least one of the informal elements in school."Are teachers not getting paid enough? Or are they just not being held responsible for teaching and should not be paid more?Every time a student misspells, fails to capitalize properly, or otherwise fails to use proper grammer and sentence structure, the teachers should count off points. The teachers are in control - not sloppy writing students.This isn't 'Ebonics'.

staff04 9 years, 11 months ago

What I cannot believe is the huge number of people in the professional world who use these things in e-mail. I just loooove when someone I respect replies to an e-mail in all lower case, with no punctuation. It just sreams "professional."

fu7il3 9 years, 11 months ago

Language and grammar are ever-changing. Whom is rarely used, and most would use it incorrectly. Ain't went from acceptable, to unacceptable.The important thing is that these students are writing. They are expressing themselves in words. That's something that was being lost before the blogging age.I don't particularly care if these students write in a professional style. By the time they are professionals, that style will have changed. It's the way language works.

avoice 9 years, 11 months ago

Language only works when it remains consistent, cohesive. Some of the IM-speak is so obscure, the meanings can easily be misconstrued. As the purpose of written language is communication, thinking societies attempt to construct symbols in combinations that provide ultimate clarity. The deconstruction of the written language of a social system is a sure sign of a deteriorating culture. Don't forget that during the Dark Ages society "forgot" how to do most of the things that were accomplished in the Golden Age of Rome. Later, during the Renaissance, architects had to study the Pantheon to redevelop the ability to construct a dome. This is just one example of the dangers of letting culture - of which language is a key component - languish.

Newcomb 9 years, 11 months ago

gr, No, teachers are not being paid enough. And if teaching and motivating students could be accomplished simply by "counting off points," my job would be much easier. I have students who not only practice informal writing, but informal speaking as well. Early in the year, I had students respond to questions asked in class with, "IDK." That was put to a stop very quickly.

fu7il3 9 years, 11 months ago

Language has never remained consistent. Read the opening to the Canterbury Tales. Grammar is based on the society that uses it.

geniusmannumber1 9 years, 11 months ago

avoice--I'm right with you, for the first two sentences. The fact that language changes over time is too obvious to point out. Some changes facilitate communication, some do not. It's idiotic to think that this is going to become some kind of standard at some point in the future.And gr, nice. I haven't heard someone make an idiotic ebonics comment in 10 years. Good show.

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