Txting ur SAs

Apparently a department in a UK university has decided that students who use ‘text-speak’ in their essays or assignments will have marks deducted for doing so. The reason given was that if students adopt this practice in increasing numbers, the task of reading and correcting the work will become much harder and will take much longer. So while it is gr8 2 use txt methods in SMS messages and tweets, extending it to academic projects is off-limits.

I do have sympathy for this: if I were still marking and grading work I would also find the use of texting spelling and grammar to be highly irritating. However, we may need to start considering whether the SMS generation is moving beyond using txt idioms as electronic slang to considering it the new orthodoxy. On a games show recently a contestant, asked to spell ‘your’, confidently wrote ‘ur’. Are we wrong to fight this?

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13 Comments on “Txting ur SAs”

  1. Victor Says:

    This issue will be short lived.
    The coming Google phones have excellent speech to text-text to speech technology and you can run a spell check.
    Even more impressive is the Google statistical machine translation technology.
    Very soon cell phones will have this tech embedded.
    It provides accurate simultaneous translation for all major languages and solves the Tower of Babel problem.
    It is really impressive-it partly derives from the tech NSA uses to monitor international cell phone and e-mail conversations–they tap millions of conversations in many languages all the time.
    The civilian applications of this tech will have profound effects–a German speaker can call a Japanese speaker and have instantaneous translation via cell phone at the same time the conversation can be captured as text in any commonly spoken language.

  2. kevin denny Says:

    Victor, I doubt that this issue will be short-lived since it is essentially a timeless issue. Languages evolve and we tend to look favourably on what we are used to and less so on the new usages. And as you get older there is more of the latter 😦 : deal with it.
    Personally I dislike txt-speak partly as I don’t use my tobler that much but if my students are roy about it, what can I do?
    As for Google Translate, I don’t know how accurate it is (being a typical Irish monoglot) but its recently announced Latin translation was derided by Mary Beard (“A don’s life”) who knows about these things. Quod Erat something.

  3. Vincent Says:

    When we were using the flayed skin of calf lamb and possible people we developed a method of abbreviation that covered the prefix and suffix of Latin. It’s much the same with the current issue as with the Latin it wasn’t that they disliked the suffix but that it was surplus when applied to vellum. Elsewhere, they were using papyrus grown on the banks of the Nile by the shed-load. Earlier still they used stone and scratched lettering without separation for pretty trenchant epigrams. But all through the word fit the page.
    In this, it should be made as plain as a pike stave that it will not be tolerated at the start of the course.

  4. Al Says:

    Perhaps for those that do txt, their degree parchment can be written that way to identify them to prospective employers…

  5. Anne Says:

    Mary Beard was totally right. Machine translation so far is something of a joke (and no, it doesn’t work significantly better for some languages than others). While it is certain to improve over the years, at the moment it provides no more than a very very approximate gist, only really comprehensible to someone who speaks the original language anyway (and therefore doesn’t need a translation) and canwork out which idiom (its greatest bugbear) the poxy translation has totally misunderstood yet again. I doubt that, given current standards, and the very difficult problems of tone, register, colour and allusion in particular that real human translators struggle with (and which machine translation makes no effort to accommodate, something really usable in the manner Vicotr suggests will emerge any time soon.

  6. Jason Michael McCann Says:

    Imo thr R probs wit dis cltUR of txt speak. D kids @ 2lvl hv begun 2 communic8 in a linguistic sys dat requires a masiv dum down. It limits d xtent of ther vocabulary like d forced intro of Ulster Scots in d nort whit means dat thr finding it imp 2 ∫ in other area > just 3lvl. Not givin me cos 2 lol. + day may ❤ it but i h8 it! Its p. <

  7. copernicus Says:


    Where did you read this? I cannot say this is true across all universities as those who pass A levels with hard subjects, and good grades are unlikely to use the txt language in their essays, answers etc..

    • I didn’t read this, I was told by an academic from the department concerned.

      I don’t agree with your second point: there is no evidence that any particular group of young people are less likely to txt.

      • copernicus Says:

        I still teach, albeit partime, set exam papers and grade answer scripts and course work. My comments are from my experience of working in the trenches to day.

  8. anna notaro Says:

    We are not wrong to ‘fight’ this, however I am not sure that the antagonistic stance is going to be productive especially when it comes to language. The difficult task we have as educators is to make students aware that language is the most versatile of tools and that they need to master it according to their needs and to circumstances. Granted, this is not going to be easy 🙂

  9. Charmed Says:

    If this is the way the English language is evolving, it seems that we are are going backwards in refinement and sophistication. I can’t help but think that txtspk is a poor substitute for the real thing.

    @Anna Notaro: good point – education students on the value and versatility of language as a tool is critical

    @Jason Michael McCann: it’s ironic that the “Vocabulary” doesn’t have a text abbreviation.

  10. cormac Says:

    “a UK university has decided that students who use ‘text-speak’ in their essays or assignments will have marks deducted for doing so”
    I imagine students were already losing marks for this, so surely it is betterto formailse it!

    I too suspect it will soon be a dead issue, not because of the iphone, but because of predictive text – almost everyone below tha age of 30 uses this, as far as I can see

  11. Colum McCaffery Says:

    Overuse of abbreviations in an essay should not result in points deduction. The essay should be returned to the author so that he/she will learn that there are “horses for courses”.

    Incidentally, there is little point in finding fault with early generations of speech/text/speech technology. It will improve and the improvement will be rapid. It will never replace the most sophisticated of translators, but it does have implications for our continued commitment to MASS language teaching.

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