Shattering the illusions of texting

An informative review of Crystal’s Txtng: The Gr8 Db8, a book I need to put on my reading list.  I’ve said many times that I’ve *never* encountered a student who absolutely cannot switch between txtspk and standard English.  Thus, to unpack that double-negative, I think students can and do regularly make the shift between social texting and more formal writing  — though I do think I’m seeing more instances of the lowercase “I” than when I first started teaching.

Crystal does an excellent job exposing these illusions in Txtng, even if he doesn’t designate them as such. And people seem to be listening. On his blog,
Crystal notes that British media coverage has fairly addressed the
book’s six main points. The first three map precisely to the Zwickyan
trifecta of illusions:

  • Text messages aren’t full of abbreviations – typically less than ten percent of the words use them. [Frequency Illusion]
  • These abbreviations aren’t a new language – they’ve been around for decades. [Recency Illusion]
  • They aren’t just used by kids – adults of all ages and institutions are the leading texters these days. [Adolescent Illusion]

For completeness, here are Crystal’s other main points about texting:

  • Pupils don’t routinely put them into their school-work or examinations.
  • It isn’t a cause of bad spelling: you have to know how to spell before you can text.
  • Texting actually improves your literacy, as it gives you more practice in reading and writing.

It remains to be seen if American media outlets will be as
responsive to Crystal’s arguments. (The book was released in the UK in
the beginning of July and in the US in the beginning of September.)
Here’s hoping they get the (text) message.