140 characters limit corrupts English language


Nicole Schroeder

[dropcap size=”5″]A[/dropcap]nyone who texts or posts on social media sites on a regular basis knows of that person: the one who can’t seem to spell words out or has to use countless hashtags to describe their emotions, the one who has to shorten an already minuscule word to just one symbol so it becomes faster to type– ‘u’ instead of ‘you,’ ‘2’ instead of ‘two,’ ‘@’ instead of ‘at.’

In fact, many probably realize they are this person, shortening words or purposely misspelling them so that they fit into the character limits set by Twitter or different phone carriers.

Feature photo by Nicole Schroeder
Feature photo by Nicole Schroeder

I can list many people in my life who write texts and emails in this fashion, or friends and family who have asked me why I take the time to spell out my texts instead of just shortening everything as they do. They don’t see the problem in using the numerous abbreviations and alternative spellings that this generation of socialites has created.

“What’s the big deal?” they ask.

I roll my eyes. The big deal, I think to myself, is that this habit of writing lazily is slowly ruining the English language.

In truth, I may be overreacting. People still write essays and books with traditional English, and, for many, it’s only in their free time that this habit ever shows itself. Besides, writing in acronyms and abbreviations is more efficient in a world where everyone seems to constantly be on the run. Still, with so many people misspelling simple words on tests or speaking in hashtags rather than English, it worries me that, some day, the lines between the two styles of writing will become blurred.

Already, the Oxford English dictionary has accepted words like ‘selfie,’ ‘twerk’ and ‘gif’ as part of the English language, and sites like urbandictionary.com are becoming increasingly popular for their ability to decipher the jumbled code that is texting language. At the same time, organizations such as EF Englishtown and Oxford Learning are beginning to feel that text messaging encourages the misspelling of words and makes it harder for students to understand basic yet essential spelling and grammar skills. One article by EF Englishtown titled ‘Is text messaging ruining the English language?’ even goes so far as to say, “English is a beautiful tongue with a rich literary history which does not deserve to be overshadowed by phrases like ‘c u l8r’ and ‘megalolz’.”

While these examples aren’t all truly significant in proving the development of the English language, I believe they shouldn’t be brushed off as a joke, either. It is in part these subtle changes in our society that lead me to believe there is validity behind the idea of the evolution of the English language, and that this evolution is not necessarily something to look forward to.

Maybe this fear of change stems from my love of writing and traditional English literature. I have always enjoyed the writing of the past and don’t ever want to see Shakespeare or Orwell surpassed in importance by books filled by words like ‘YOLO’ and ‘selfie,’ or by authors who don’t seem to understand the basics of sentence structure and English grammar. I admit, neglecting our spelling in texts and twitter posts is still far from the printing presses of the publishing world; however, if we don’t make an effort to protect English vocabulary as it exists now, then what will be left of this centuries-old language in generations to come?

By Nicole Schroeder

Do you believe text lingo has altered the English language? Is this change good or bad? Leave your comments below.