EDITOR’S DESK: Kudos to Bulldogs battling toxic text-speak

Published: Tuesday, January 7, 2014 at 18:04 PM.

Here is a passage of some Monday-evening text messages:

Girl: "Hey How's work."

Me: "Crazy busy today."

(A few hours later; after a few unanswered phone calls, it's time to fish.)

Me: "You're probably watching The Bachelor, honestly!"

Girl: "Haha no watching Auburn game And bored"

Me: "I'm now watching antiques road show on pubs while having dinner. Haven't seen this in years."

"Pbs"

"My gosh I dislike architect"

"Autocrat"

"I mean auto correct!"

This is why Crestview High School's "Unforgivables" effort — which brands commonly misspelled or misused words and phrases as outlaws — is important. Communication is crucial to a functional, thriving society, but technology sometimes has a way of making us lazy.

I  added a texting service to my mobile plan three years ago — at least eight years later than my peers. Before, it seemed like a waste of time and money. Before, I questioned what reducing someone, particularly a friend, to alphanumeric input must mean for human dignity and civilization.

But, as it says in the country song, "I did it for the girl."

Initially, I texted like I edit: In AP style, with  the brevity of William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White's "Elements of Style," compliant with "The American Heritage Guide to Contemporary Usage and Style" and "Bubba's English," a weekly grammar lesson that ran for decades in the Mobile Register, my hometown paper; and with just one or two I's or me's to prevent the text from appearing selfish. (Forgive me for breaking that last one in this column; and for the apostrophes to pluralize. Style mavens still butt heads on that one and you sometimes have to pick the one that, right or wrong, brings the most clarity!) I even proofread texts before hitting send.

As I waded deeper into alphanumeric culture, texted more and noticed people at work treating texts as informal communication, peppering messages with emoticons and LOLs, it became clear: Texting has its own accepted, abbreviated language of convenience.

But the real revelation came later, as alphanumeric culture creeped increasingly into everyday life, and English's erosion started to show; it's now common to hear teenagers say "LOL" or "OMG," abbreviating whatever they can, seemingly, to shorten the time their lips move.

Crestview High School teachers say text-speak is toxic in their classrooms. That's not surprising; 1990s adults and college students with excellent-to-average grammar skills  can switch seamlessly from using formal English in thank-you notes and essays to informal, mostly grammatically correct speech. But millennials who grew up primarily on text-speak already have a shaky foundation and apparently can't determine when to make the switch.

Of course, the culture is increasingly informal, so it's probably hard for students to tell what's acceptable. Compare children's dialogue and attire from 1920s-1960s films with those from films today. Consider how children address their parents and teachers, the taboos or lack thereof and the bounds of appropriate behavior. I'm in the camp who believes those things play a role.

Regardless of how things got this way, we know the ultimate goal is clear communication.

As I write this, a text comes in from Girl: "Hey what u up 5 op."

I rest my case.

Best wishes, Crestview High, for your efforts to bridge this communication gap.

What's your view? Write a letter to the editor or tweet News Bulletin Editor Thomas Boni @cnbeditor.

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