Communication has since time immemorial been one of the most

fundamental aspects of human beings. Indeed, almost no activity can be
carried out without proper communication, whether formal or informal.
Needles to say, language, as an avenue of communication, has been
dynamic as to encompass different modifications at any given time.
However, informal communication seems to take on changes in its
structures and rules at a significantly more rapid speed than formal
language. In her article “Like”, Patricia T. O’Conner, examines
the use of the word like, as well as any potential distortions that the
informal use of the word may have on formal language. She states that
the word like has been used in introducing and paraphrasing an actual
quotation, summarizing the “quotee’s” or quoter’s inner
thoughts, enable the speaker to imitate the “quotee’s” behavior,
lay emphasis on something or even hedge a statement. However, questions
emerge on whether the new meanings with which such words come have any
effect on the written word (O’Conner 17). Indeed, there have been
concerns that the new meanings have been breaking some rules on usage
and grammar. On the same note, there have been concerns that the new
meanings may render young people incapable of determining when it is
appropriate to use respectful or formal English (O’Conner 19). While
there may be differing opinions, it is evident that the new meanings do
not have a negative effect on written word, in which case young people
know when to be respectful or to use formal language.
First, scholars have underlined the chronological disparity between the
entry of spoken word and that of writing. Writing has been around for
approximately 5500 years, whereas the history of language can probably
be traced back to at least 80,000 years. In essence, talking came first,
while writing just made a trailing artifice (McWhorter 2). This means
that the initial writing was primarily based on the ways in which people
talk. However, there is a distinction between talking and writing, where
talking comes off as rapid and largely subconscious, whereas writing is
slow and deliberate (McWhorter 2). This means that the young people take
their time to measure their words and determine what to write, following
all the rules pertaining to grammar.
In addition, Curzan notes that the apparent change in the use of words
has not been an entirely new phenomenon. Indeed, the entry of the
telegraph more than one and a half centuries ago marked some form of
change in the arrangement and use of grammar. However, Curzan notes that
the entry of the telegraph did not influence people to start writing and
talking like they would write in telegraphs, in which case there is
little or no likelihood that people are going to start writing and
speaking in abbreviations and acronyms simply brought about by the
electronically mediated communication (Curzan 3). She notes that there
exists a detailed collection of rules that young people have learned so
as to be effective in the use of electronic mediated communication.
While a small number or proportion of younger students may be adept at
mistakenly slipping such words in formal papers, secondary and
elementary education partly entails learning the navigation between
written and spoken language, not to mention among the varied formality
levels and registers for each. Students are thus assisted in learning to
undertake the navigation in a more knowledgeable and effective manner
(Curzan 8). Indeed, she admits that in her 20 years as a teacher, she
has never seen students apply the conventions of texting language in
formal writing and speech (Curzan 4). This can only imply that young
people have the capacity to determine when to be formal and respectful
in their use of these conventions, whether in writing or when speaking.
Moreover, studies have shown that the informal or distorted use of
words may, in fact, allow for improvement in their formal writing and
speaking skills. Needless to say, the distorted use of words such as
“like”, “how” and “so” is mainly done in informal settings
and in digital technologies or electronic mediated communication. The
study noted that the tools allow for enhanced collaboration among young
people (Purcell et al 3). On the same note, they gain exposure to a
significantly larger audience for their work, as well as enhanced
feedback from their peers, which encourages enhanced student investment
in the things that they write and the process of writing in its entirety
(Purcell et al 4). This can only mean that, eventually, in spite of the
distorted use of words and failure to follow grammatical rules in their
electronic mediated communications, young people would eventually be
more likely to pay more attention to the entire process of writing, in
which case they would be more likely to follow the rules of formal and
respectful writing.
In conclusion, the use of words in a grammatically “incorrect” way
has been rife in the recent times. While the use of words such as
“like”, “so” and “how” may be distorted, young people still
retain their capacity to know when to be formal and respectful in their
writing and speech. Scholars note that writing, unlike language, is
deliberate and slow, in which case young people have the time to weigh
their words carefully and use grammatically correct phrases. In
addition, distortion of language is not an entirely new phenomenon. It
happened after the entry of the telegram yet no change was noted in the
formal writing and speech. This is because education teaches the
students how to navigate the spoken and written word. Moreover, the
distortions may allow for enhanced collaboration and feedback from peers
thereby allowing young people to be more attentive to their writing.
Works cited
Purcell, Kristen., Buchanan, Judy & Friedrich, Linda. The Impact of
Digital Tools on Student Writing and How Writing is Taught in Schools.
PewResearchCenter, 2013. Web retrieved from HYPERLINK
“http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2013/Teachers-technology-and-writing”
http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2013/Teachers-technology-and-writing
Curzan, Anne. Txtng Rules. The Chronicle of Higher Education. 2013. Web
retrieved from HYPERLINK
“http://chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2013/03/01/txtng-rules/”
http://chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2013/03/01/txtng-rules/
O’Conner, Patricia T. Like. New York Times, 2007, retrieved from
HYPERLINK
“http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/15/magazine/15wwln-guest-t.html?_r=0”
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/15/magazine/15wwln-guest-t.html?_r=0
McWhorter, John. Is Texting Killing the English Language? Times. 2013,
web retrieved from HYPERLINK
“http://ideas.time.com/2013/04/25/is-texting-killing-the-english-languag
e/”
http://ideas.time.com/2013/04/25/is-texting-killing-the-english-language
/
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