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The great texting debate.

TEXT talk (textese or txtk) has become quite popular over the years, so much so that companies and advertising agencies have jumped onto the bandwagon.

Services that provide bulk text message sending are becoming a popular way for clubs, associations and advertisers to reach a large audience quickly.

But I am one of those who has never gotten used to the idea of abbreviating or shortening words. I need to write a sentence in full.

I think of my years doing English literature A Levels and I sigh.

Call me crazy, but I worry about whether texting is harming our literacy.

Besides, you need to be a code-breaking expert to interpret some of the abbreviated words being sent to you!

A while back I got chatting to one of the dads at school while we waited for our girls to come out.

In the middle of the conversation he asked whether I knew what "btw" meant, as he had received a message on his phone that included these letters.

I said no and we continued talking. Later, I asked my six-year-old if she knew what it meant and with no hesitation came the reply: "Yeah, of course. 'By the way'. And mummy, you are joking right?"

And I was so hip and with it not so long ago!

I suppose it's no worse than journalistic shorthand or academic jargon, but one thing is for sure - the use of text messaging has changed the way people talk and write.

I was astounded to learn that in the English speaking world, Britain alone generates more than six billion text messages every month.

In 2009, the world produced 2.3 trillion messages, about a 20 per cent increase from the previous two years.

People are communicating more and faster than ever.

However, I worry that as text talk drops consonants, vowels and punctuation - and letters are replaced with numbers - there will come a time when we will no longer know how to communicate.

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority in 2006 approved the use of mobile phone text language by students sitting end of year exams. In 2009, researchers from Coventry University in the UK studied 88 children aged 10 to 12 to understand the impact of text messaging on their language skills.

Remarkably, they found using so-called 'textisms' could be having a positive impact on reading development.

The lead author of the report and senior lecturer at the university, Dr Beverley Plester, said texting was likely to be an important part of the child's learning development.

That is because the more exposure a child had to the written word, the more literate they would become. We also tend to get better at things we do for fun.

Other researchers found young adults who used more language-based textisms - shortcuts such as lol (laugh out loud) and 2nite (tonight) - in daily writing produced worse formal writing than those who used fewer shortcuts in daily writing.

However, the exact opposite was true for informal writing.

Their report suggested that using textisms to shorten words led young adults to produce more informal writing, which might help them be better "informal" writers.

Confused? So was I.

When we were at school, we had to hand in our essays with not a smudge, in well written and readable handwriting using an ink pen. Have those days gone?

Txtng is d gr8 db8 and right now I'm 404!

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Publication:Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Date:Oct 20, 2011
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