Electronic Communication Destroying Writing Skills
By James Donahue
While there a lot of excellent writers posting well thought articles and even books on line, there
has been a noticeable deterioration of writing, spelling and communication skills appearing on popular mass communication
sites like Facebook and Twitter.
As a former newspaper and book writer and editor, and English Literature and journalism as major subjects
in my college studies, I have been especially sensitive to poorly written sentences, spelling errors, and most horrible of
all, the substitution of letters for whole words.
There has, in fact, developed a whole vocabulary of letter combinations that have "coded" meanings
to the young people "in the loop" but leave the rest of us scratching our heads when we see them.
Some of the "slang" expressions are relatively easy to translate. For example, BRB means "I will be
right back," or CU for "I will see you." Then there is the common LOL which means "laugh out loud." But when it comes to some
of the other terms like BTW, idk,1o1 or ayk, most of us are left in the dark. There are entire internet jargon dictionaries
on the web to assist in translating this new language.
A recent report in BBC News noted that because the Internet is global, with an estimated 4.5 billion
web pages now available to read in many languages, it is having an effect on the English language, which is the most common
language being used.
The story said some linguists are predicting that within 10 years English will dominate the Internet,
but it will have evolved in forms very different to what we recognize as English today.
Unlike the United States, where most people learn only English in school, except in states where Spanish
is commonly used, children in many other parts of the world learn English as a second language. Thus when on line, they can
easily communicate with other non-native writers by using English. But what is happening among all of the younger chat room
and text users is that they are less concerned about proper grammar and spelling, and turn, instead to a common form of phonics
to create the words in their messages.
Unless they are using Skype or Yahoo Messenger to communicate verbally, these people also are not
concerned about accents. They just have to connect their words in a form of English, and the message can be received and understood
by most of the Internet users anywhere in the world.
There is something exciting about this international means of communicating. For example some years
ago, when Yahoo offered a variety of chat rooms for people with a wide range of interests, I managed to have interesting conversations
with people in places like China, Mexico, and even the South Pole. That kind of global communication has obviously been a
key to a growing international understanding that people all over the world are just like us. It has helped me come to the
conclusion that there is no reason ever to go to war with other nations because of boundary or ideological differences. Once
you have an Internet friend in Iran, or China, or Russia, the thought of ever going to war against that person’s country
becomes an abhorrent thought. Who can ever shoot at someone you consider a friend?
As a student of the English language, however, I mourn the invasion of good writing skills. I notice
that many Internet stories and newspaper articles are showing spelling and grammar errors. I even see them in the floating
news banners at the bottom of the screen when watching CNN or Fox News stations. Sometimes I feel the impulse to come out
of retirement and go to the aid of these various contemporary writers who are obviously so caught up in the rush of getting
their jobs done, they don’t have time to run spell-checks or grammar checks on the text they are producing.
I have been an ardent book worm since the day I walked into the library in my home town and was introduced
to the excitement of reading good stories. My father was a science fiction buff and kept a stack of paperback books in his
bedroom closet. Once I discovered them, I too grew to love science fiction. I soon turned to great literature, and once in
college, majored in English Literature, and earned enough credits in American Literature that I could have chosen that field
as a minor.
After years of writing and editing the English language, I am sensitive to correct grammar and spelling,
and especially enjoy a well-written story. While I am happy to see a growing trend toward an international language because
of the Internet, I think I will surely miss the great literature we have enjoyed for so long.