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.