Is “Textspeak” Ruining Communication?

At the risk of sounding curmudgeonly, I can’t help but rant about the creeping specter of textspeak in everyday communications. With smartphones and full keyboards, there’s no excuse to not spell out your words!

I have a big fear about the future of the written word. No, I’m not about to give you an anti-eBook screed; you’ll never see me parting from my beloved Kindle. And I think Jeff Bezos buying the Washington Post is very intriguing. Rather, I am terribly afraid for the literal words, as more and more textspeak is making its way into everyday and professional contexts.

Years ago, when everyone was rocking Moto RAZR, all phones had tiny numeric keyboards, and text messages capped at 160 characters, shortening words made some sense. It was more economical for your fingers and your letter count to shorten “to” to “2”, or “you” to “u”. But technology has moved forwards, and phones these days come with full keyboards, both default and third-party like Swype. Most smartphones seamlessly handle text messages with multiples of 160 characters, and if you have a smartphone,then you likely have unlimited texting as well.

Worse than text messages, though, are emails. What really set off this rant today was an email sent to me in a professional context that substituted “2” for “to” and “u” for “you”. It makes it really hard to take something seriously when it reads like a teenage girl texted it on a bedazzled iPhone. But stop and think further for a moment: Email has no character cap, if you’re typing an email on your iPhone then, you have a full keyboard to work with; that email, for a professional purpose, is likely to get replied to, forwarded, and possibly resurface in the future. Getting an email that says “Hey, u hve time 2 meet ltr 2day?” doesn’t make me think “What a wonderful opportunity!” Instead, it makes me think “Did my teenage niece get hold of my work email?”

What really scares me is that this isn’t an isolated incident. I’ve seen this come up again and again, and it makes me wonder: Maybe Orwell’s newspeak wasn’t doubleplusgood or ungood, but simply OMG LOL tlk 2 u ltr!

Does textspeak raise your hackles and make you want to call the grammar police? Or do you just roll your eyes and move on with your day?


Categories: Rants and Raves


7 replies

  1. I agree wholeheartedly. I never use those abbreviations when texting much less when writing.

  2. And it is getting worse as the people who started with ‘text speak’ in chat rooms and early online games are now parents, and for kids even lol is too much so they use graphics and so on.

  3. While I agree with you, Carly, folks probably said that typewriters ruined letter writing by making it impersonal. I just sigh dramatically and mutter about kids these days…

    > if you’re typing an email on your iPhone then, you have a full keyboard to work with

    A full keyboard? That’s awfully generous of you :) I doubt that the next iPhone is going to have a bigger screen, but my thumbs would probably thank Apple for that if it did.

    • This is one reason I like devices with bigger screens. It makes it much easier to type on the screen.

      I’ll agree with you on the typewriter comment. An analogy that I can draw from ham radio is when the voice or Phone modes came out. Some were probably saying that using your voice would do the same thing to Morse Code….I know some operators that STILL use Morse…they say because it works….I dislike Morse like the plague! I use it when I have to but there are much better ways of communicating.

  4. Ha, I’m a curmudgeon where words are concerned as well, but I’m of two minds on this. Simple mobile phone keypads and nascent texting service limitations certainly conditioned the people most using services at the time, and while the technology evolved, peoples’ habits did not. I also see form sacrificed for speed and convenience, with a dose of laziness thrown in. We don’t dress up to go to the movies like our parents or grandparents did, we often just click on Netflix or some such for instant video gratification. The “ceremony” or decorum of the occasion is lost because we have become so casual. Casual in habits, dress, and of course, causal communication. Is it simply the evolution of language that it is more simplistic yet more efficient, or is it indeed laziness?

    Of course, the problem with simpler, cruder communication is that one loses the broader capability of descriptiveness and the more detailed thought accompanying it. Suddenly our linguistic Crayola box has gone from 64 colors to a mere 8. Isn’t it ironic that human knowledge is vastly increasing but our ability to communicate that knowledge is decreasing?

    Incidentally, Carly, regarding your Newspeak reference, also consider that while our social language is perhaps simplifying, would that the language of the laws we pass to govern ourselves were equally simple, but then truth and politics rarely commingle.

  5. You know with the auto complete on my phone I don’t even have to shorten things…I just select the word after I tap in 2 characters usually. Much faster than TXT speak and I understand it!