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IM Shortcuts Popping Up in the Real World

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Another reason to cast IM into the pits of hell:

    EACH September Jacqueline Harding prepares a classroom presentation on the common writing mistakes she sees in her students’ work.

    Ms. Harding, an eighth-grade English teacher at Viking Middle School in Guernee, Ill., scribbles the words that have plagued generations of schoolchildren across her whiteboard:

    ….This September, she has added a new list: u, r, ur, b4, wuz, cuz, 2.

    When she asked her students how many of them used shortcuts like these in their writing, Ms. Harding said, she was not surprised when most of them raised their hands. This, after all, is their online lingua franca: English adapted for the spitfire conversational style of Internet instant messaging.

    Ms. Harding, who has seen such shortcuts creep into student papers over the last two years, said she gave her students a warning: “If I see this in your assignments, I will take points off.”

    “Kids should know the difference,” said Ms. Harding, who decided to address this issue head-on this year. “They should know where to draw the line between formal writing and conversational writing.”

    As more and more teenagers socialize online, middle school and high school teachers like Ms. Harding are increasingly seeing a breezy form of Internet English jump from e-mail into schoolwork. To their dismay, teachers say that papers are being written with shortened words, improper capitalization and punctuation, and characters like &, $ and @.

    Teachers have deducted points, drawn red circles and tsk-tsked at their classes. Yet the errant forms continue. “It stops being funny after you repeat yourself a couple of times,” Ms. Harding said.

    But teenagers, whose social life can rely as much these days on text communication as the spoken word, say that they use instant-messaging shorthand without thinking about it. They write to one another as much as they write in school, or more.

    “You are so used to abbreviating things, you just start doing it unconsciously on schoolwork and reports and other things,” said Eve Brecker, 15, a student at Montclair High School in New Jersey.

    Ms. Brecker once handed in a midterm exam riddled with instant-messaging shorthand. “I had an hour to write an essay on Romeo and Juliet,” she said. “I just wanted to finish before my time was up. I was writing fast and carelessly. I spelled `you’ `u.’ ” She got a C.

    Even terms that cannot be expressed verbally are making their way into papers. Melanie Weaver was stunned by some of the term papers she received from a 10th-grade class she recently taught as part of an internship. “They would be trying to make a point in a paper, they would put a smiley face in the end,” said Ms. Weaver, who teaches at Alvernia College in Reading, Pa. “If they were presenting an argument and they needed to present an opposite view, they would put a frown.”…

Read and despair. The real issue is carelessness.

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About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: Twitter@amhaunted, Facebook.com/amhaunted, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.
  • r u serious??? 4 real??

  • senoric

    in a 6th grade writing assignment i made the mistake of putting the words “go” and “to” together. the paper was returned with GOTO underlined, and graded appropriately. i asked my dad if the teacher was illiterate….he replied with a severe beating! as easy as it may have seemed to cut a project short in the future, i never used GOTO……

  • My wife has noticed this phenomenon (she is an 8th grade Science teacher) in the past, and scolded me for the way I would write e-mails and messages, so I stopped doing that, since it IS actually quite annoying to try to figure out what someone is saying when everything is abbreviated….

  • We have come along way. When email was first “taking off” in the 90’s I had a heck of a time writing the @ symbol. They didn’t teach us that one in school. For a while I just put down a capital O. The times they are a changing.

  • lol this is all kinda funny u kno i can type shorthand like this but i still kno how 2 write in school.. just like the rest of em should nd im in 9th.. i dont waste my time 2 punctuate ot capitilize when sendin emails or IMs or nething like that.. but when im in school or somthin like that i wouldnt even think about nd yea.. sometimes we dont even realize wat were writing just cuz we use it so much… yea.. times r changing.. just gonna have 2 get used 2 it

  • i sometimes end up riting abreviations on my paper cuz i use it more than i use real riting, but i usually end up catching it, or, if i’m at school, spell check underlines it, so idc.

  • hahaha

    i think teachers should learn 2 read it, so they don’t keep on complaining abou it!!! It’s faster, and makes it so it doesn’t take as much time 2 type, so y not learn it?

  • #7, Because it’s ignorant. You’re in school to get an education, not spend as little time as possible typing.

    What separates the educated from the uneducated? Issues like these. Those who want learn to succeed in life learn how to speak and write the language, while others complain about the waste of time and spend the rest of their lives working at Wal-mart.

    That’s a slightly hyperbolic simplification, of course.

  • Luke

    Expecting teachers to accept 1337sp33k is the same as expecting them to accept papers written in ebonics.

  • Teachers don’t decide what gets taught so it’s pointless to argue with them about it.

  • First, thank you for this great post. I’ve used you as a reference for mine and linked to your site.

    You probably won’t be surprised that I have encountered IM shorcuts in college papers!

    Great site. I look forward to reading more.


  • Chris White

    It is always good to use proper grammer when you are talking with someone other then a freind. The reason is because the other person may think you are an idiot or that you may not know what you are doing.

  • cha

    I think it’s best to consider the correct spelling words than the short two or three letter words. Those words to me are best only for texting not in school writing. Students who have used should not a good grades as those spell well.