Sidenote: I wrote this in 2012. LOOOOOL!!!
The written English Language, as we know it, is dead. Not that I should care much – I’m from Nigeria and it’s not my native language. But when you live in a country that has over 250 languages and dialects, you have no choice but to appreciate the proper use of English. So it is with great concern and downcast spirit that I break this news to you.
Technology and social media have a major role to play. Most everyone has a smartphone, Twitter account, or at least text messaging these days. The 140/160 character limits (2018 me: Twitter bumped its character limit up to 280 but it hasn’t stopped people from over-abbreviating) are not helping matters.
We almost have to abbreviate everything so we can squeeze in as many thoughts into these limited characters. Facebook at least seems to have unlimited text limits. Which is why you should delete yourTwitter accounts, throw away your smartphones and stick with your Facebook account Ok just kidding….. Where were we?….. Oh yes….
The result is that a new breed of vocabulary is now emerging; what I like to call text-speak.
Some of these abbreviations are not necessarily harmful – “u” for “you”, “d” for “the” etc…. Some, I see as absolutely unnecessary.
I mean, if you can take the time to type “l8r” (remembering that you have to hold down alt or shift or whatever to type ’8′), why is it so hard for you to type “later”? The answer is that we think it’s cooler to type “l8r”than to type “later”. or “fanks” (I still don’t get this one) rather than “thanks”.
Ok so we have good enough reasons to use these texts, I have no issues with that. What I have a big issue with is how these styles of writing are slowly creeping into places where they shouldn’t. We shouldn’t carry our BB mindsets to the exam or conference hall. It would be disastrous.
I was reading the other day that some student took an exam and instead of writing, ”the solution to the question is….”, she wrote “d soln 2d qstn is…”. She must have been lucky to pass that exam. I know if I was a lecturer, I would fail her.
The truth is the more we depend on social media in our everyday lives, the more we are prone to make mistakes like this girl. We may say we can’t be affected, but don’t be surprised the day you find yourself writing “Due 2 un4seen consqns, we at global oil ltd r….” on your next formal report.
And so I charge you do something proactive to save whatever is left of written English. Maybe one day, we will be able to revive her. Here are a few tips I use myself.
- Abbreviate only when necessary – Make a mental note to yourself that you don’t always have to abbreviate. I’m more appreciative of Facebook when it comes to sharing my thoughts online. As there are no limits, I make a habit of typing everything in full (my Facebook friends can attest to that). However this is not always easy on Twitter. So what I do is, I first type everything (of course bearing in mind I need to be concise) and then when I’m done, I try to fish out which words I can harmlessly abbreviate. The same thing goes for when I’m using chat apps, e.g BBM and WhatsApp. I hardly ever use abbreviations. It’s free for Pete’s sake and I’m not trying to save on SMS cost. Only when I really need to (say when I have a lot to type), do I abbreviate. Believe me, if you can stick to this, you’re less likely to make those goofs in formal settings.
- Use T9 and auto correct – Agreed auto correct can be very annoying sometimes. But it could also be your best friend. Most smartphones come with auto correct and T9 (predictive text) but in rare cases you need to install. We are in the jet age and we want everything to move fast. So we want to communicate fast too, which is why we justify abbreviations. But what’s so bad if you could type just the first 3 letters of a 6-letter word and auto correct already anticipates what you’re typing in full? It wouldn’t hurt to just hit enter would it? And if auto correct doesn’t know, why not take the time to teach it those strange words? The time you invest in teaching auto correct could prove really helpful in the long run.
- Write more often – I can’t over-emphasise how writing will improve your use of English. Whether you prefer to blog, write articles or letters, just write.
- Give up your social media life – Lol ok I’m kidding. If it wasn’t for social media, you wouldn’t be reading this.
If you can keep to these few tips and more, trust me you’ll have an easier time differentiating when to use and not to use text-speak.
Sadly, not too many people might find this a welcome idea. And unless we start to make a conscious effort, not much can be done to correct this problem. If you have more suggestions on how to keep English alive, you’re welcome to drop your comments below.
Just like slangs, which were once thought to be excessively informal, slowly crept into our dictionaries and thesauruses, at the rate we are going, I believe that one day…. it’s only a matter of time, text-speak would be acceptable in formal and educational settings. The we’d start to rant about how ‘unsmart’ and uncultured our children are. We can decide to debunk this prophecy (I’m by no means a T.B Joshua) or we can decide to fold our arms and let it come to pass.
Jst dnt say I din’t warn u. Oh you spotted an abbreviation….? 🙂