Essay on Text Talk in Students’ Formal Writing

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Several decades ago, “Ain’t ain’t a word” was a favorite litany of English teachers everywhere, and they sang it whenever that offending word cropped up in a student’s speech or writing. Today, however, ain’t is a word firmly entrenched in dictionaries, nonstandard, but a word nonetheless. Now, looming on the horizon is something which may make language arts teachers long for the days of ain’t – text talk. Text talk, or text speak, is the language of abbreviations, acronyms, and emoticons people use when communicating through short message service (SMS) on their cell phones, or when instant messaging and emailing each other, and it is beginning to creep into students’ formal writing. Teachers, not just language arts teachers, hate seeing …show more content…

In talking with teens, Donna Alvermann (2007) found even those who claim they strongly dislike writing and never write outside school write entire paragraphs while texting, and some even create alternate identities for different chat rooms, thus engaging in creative writing. Teens prefer to text their ideas and feelings because it is less risky than speaking them, and Alvermann suggests content area teachers can capitalize on that.
Teaching through Texting Language is not static; it grows and develops, and, like “ain’t,” such textisms as LOL (laughing out loud) and BRB (be right back) may someday become acceptable English. Young people already speak many of their text talk abbreviations. The fact of the matter is the technology that spurred the development of this new language is here to stay, which means text talk is here to stay, and taking a hard line on keeping it out of the classroom is a losing battle. It is a losing battle teachers don’t have to fight because they can harness the potential of text talk as a teaching tool. Kristen Hawley Turner (2009) advocates using text talk to teach students how to consciously code-switch, or switch back and forth between informal and formal English usage. She and her graduate students developed an enjoyable lesson they call “Flip the Switch” which they use to teach code-switching and, in the end, make it

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