if u cn rd this, u mite IM 2 much

Remember that old bumper sticker “If you can read this, you are too close”

These day it might read, “if u cn rd this, u mite IM 2 much.”

I was commiserating with a friend the other day.  She was upset because her 12-year-old daughter had sent her a text at the end of an after-school activity; it read: where r u? y r u l8?

Then on Sunday I opened the Parade magazine insert and saw this (credit to Dave Coverly and Parade), a testament to how far IM/text shorthand has gone:

Aside from text/IM shorthand, we see a lot of plain and simple misspellings in lengthier (not text-abbreviated words).  Dave Rosenthal wrote about this in his Read Street piece, Is spelling ded?

Is this a case of cause and effect?  Is it laziness?  Some of our common misspellings stem from a (mis-guided?) attempt by marketers to be clever or alliterative.  Would Krispy Kreme taste any less decadent if it were spelled Crispy Cream?  Would Kwik Kopy not reproduce at such a speed if it were Quick Copy?  What about children’s products – would the “bikes and trains and video games” be less appealing if Toys R Us (sorry, I can’t make the R backwards!) were Toys We Are or even We Are Toys.  OK, the toy store may be an extreme example, but I’ve made my point.

When our older daughter was in fourth grade (she’s now in seventh), J and I had a parent-teacher conference as part of the routine progress report.  LW12 has always enjoyed writing, and we’ve seen she has a way with words.  Her teachers have seen this, too, and always return glowing reports on her work.  J and I were a bit concerned because, although her thoughts and writing construct were excellent, her essays inevitably contained spelling errors that went unchecked.  When we asked the teacher about this, he told us that “those aren’t fourth-grade words.”  In other words, they weren’t being tested on them, so they wouldn’t be corrected in class work.  After some discussion, the teacher did agree to mark any words that were misspelled, but not mark down the grade due to spelling errors that were “not fourth grade words.”  Truly, she had been insisting that those words were spelled correctly, because they were never marked wrong!

OK, I’m stepping down from my high horse now.  I know I’m guilty of habitually substituting “thru” for “through.”   There are probably other intentional misspellings/shortenings I’ve adopted; I’m not immune, I’m just wondering why we do this … and why it bothers me!

I’ll leave you with some silly lyrics I penned.  I had considered titling this post To the tune of “Every Sperm is Sacred” (that’s Monty Python, for anyone who thinks I’ve lost my mind!), but thot thought I might get 2 too many spam hits:

Every letter is needed

Proper spelling is right

If a letter is wasted

Dawn gets quite uptight

Clearly I did not miss my calling as a songwriter!  :)

Sound off … am I expecting too much?  Is it my age?  Am I simply a control freak?

21 comments to if u cn rd this, u mite IM 2 much

  • lol! I’m going to have that little song stuck in my head all day now :P

    I don’t often use abbreviations/weird spellings, but when used in an informal context they don’t bother me too much. They do bother me in essays/e-mails that are supposed to be formal/etc. What I find worrisome is that some kinds don’t seem to realize that there are contexts in which they’re not appropriate.

  • I think a lot of it is the way they teach reading and writing in school these days. Our son attended kindergarten and first grade in France, so he missed the part of school where they tell them to write it the way it sounds, and he’s always been a good speller. He also uses complete words in texts and IMs – at least when he’s sending them to us.

  • You are not alone. I’m guilty of coulda/shoulda/wanna/gonna, but I use those when I want my writing to reflect how informal I’m feeling. Otherwise, text spelling (or whatever it’s called) drives me nuts. Twitter is forcing me to use some of it, and I cringe every time.

  • I have to say that I am guilty of this, but I often spell out words when texting rather than use abbreviations…I guess that makes me odd. Ah well. But I think part of the school problem is related to no child left behind…the teachers have no time to think about teaching things beyond what is expected and what will be tested on at the end of the year to make sure all the students are proficient. Its ghastly!

  • D, ur rite!!!!!!!!!!

    Seriously, I worry most that the simplified text-talk removes all subleties from the language. It’s great for speed and short messages, but it’s likely to expand into other writings, too. Heaven help the teachers who have to deal with that.

  • Too many people can’t spell (including teachers!), so this seems to be promoting yet even more adults who will require toting around vast volumes of dictionaries to do their daily jobs!

  • I’m with you. There should be a real divide: informal texting language/spelling and the rest of the time. And yes, teachers should mark incorrectly spelled words as such, even if the errors don’t reflect the grade. (or the other way around)

    As for No Child… that’s EXACTLY what’s going on. Scary, huh? I mean, sheesh. Imagine who our children could be if they were challenged just a bit. Hell, I’m losing my oldest because of this.

  • Not marking/correcting misspelled words unless they’re officially “spelling words”?! That explains a LOT about my stepdaughter’s spelling. I call that totally bogus. But I’m a bit of spelling junkie myself.

    On the other hand, my son’s been IM’ing for ten years now and has almost never fallen into text-speak abbreviation. I am so proud of him :-) .

    LOVE the song!

  • Don’t get me started on the no child left behind! By “not” leaving them behind, they are REALLY and TRULY leaving them behind. Had to put my kids in private school because it got so bad. The teachers ignored everything, my daughter wasn’t held accountable for anything……….ok, I will stop now.

    Ok, yes I do abbreviate sometimes on IM or texting. But, not in emails, letters, or anything like that.

    And, I make my daughter use full/correct spelling when texting me, because I was starting to think she really didn’t know how to spell a lot of those words. I was right. It’s sad. I am the mean mother who makes her kids spell/write correctly.

  • No, you’re not asking too much. I don’t mind text speak in text messages- it’s sort of like a new language- but taking it out of that context and writing/spelling like that all the time is not acceptable. I think it’s a combination of laziness, poor education and “everyone else is doing it.” Harumph! :-)

  • Wonderful! I don’t think you are being too harsh here. And honestly, I am tired of hearing that it’s an “age thing” from other people. I’m not sure when grammar, spelling, and clear communication became “age things.” I’m not that old, and it drives me crazy to see even people my own age (late 30s) adopting crazy text language in emails–business emails, no less. I think proper English and “text speak” can exist alongside one another, and I think teachers and parents should insist it does. (And on that note, teachers should do everything they can to encourage and help students who are above their level–and stop “teaching to the test,” so to speak. Grr.)

  • Vanessa

    I can’t believe they wouldn’t mark spelling errors just because they are not fourth grade words! That’s outrageous!
    I’m 27, so I’m just a little too old to be right into the “txt” generation, but my 18 year old sister is terrible. I sit and stare at her emails, puzzling out the meaning as though I’m deciphering hiroglyphics (I think I spelled that wrong). I even see txt speak in business communications. I keep hoping that it will pass out of fashion, but I think that may just be wishful thinking.

  • Nicole

    Correcting all misspelled words seems like it should be standard. I am glad you and J caught it.

  • My friends and family give me a hard time because I can spot a spelling error in the strangest of places. We were behind a commercial truck, and I told my husband that if I were the business owner, I’d demand my money back on the paint job. I finally had to point out to him that it said “commerical and residential painting” on the back of the truck.
    On the overpass near our home, a touching memorial has been created for a young woman killed on the train tracks. I realize her friends were reaching out in their pain, but their tag contains bad spelling that drives me nuts every time I drive by it! So, no, you’re not alone…and I believe texting and teachers who also cannot spell properly are contributing to our inability to spell properly.

  • When I text or IM, I try to write things out properly… but when you have a character limit and get charged for too many characters… ugh, you start adopting “u” instead of “you”. I’ll warn you now, Twitter might make you twitch ;)

    P.S. I’m glad the teacher has agreed to point out any misspelled words, Grade 4 level or not!

  • P.P.S. I want to go re-watch my Monty Python discs now!

  • I know our teachers are overwhelmed, but that is ridiculous! It’s not a fourth-grade word, so let’s just let her get into the habit of spelling it wrong now. When it becomes a fifth-grade word, then she can worry about UN-learning and then re-learning how to spell it. Grr! Glad you called that teacher out on that practice.

  • Another great post! I’m not into texting so all that stuff reads like gibberish to me and my son isn’t into it yet being only 4 so I guess I’ll have to see what happens in my future. But I’m a stickler for correct spelling; it just makes you seem uneducated to spell things wrong (unless you typing fast in a comment form and don’t have time to proof). I think the teacher needs to highlight misspelled words .. it is a disservice to the student to not to!

  • Ali

    It kills me every time I run out of characters on twitter and have to spell though “tho” or before “b4.” Absolutely kills me!

  • To All – wow! I didn’t expect this to move into a discussion about NCLB, but I guess I laid the groundwork for that, didn’t I?!

    The opening to this post, about my friend and her texting daughter, needs a follow-up. My friend has told her daughter that she expects to be texted in full words and sentences. In other words, save the shorthand for your friends. I think it’s my friend’s way of making sure her daughter knows what’s “right” when writing.

    That whole Krispy Kreme naming convention has always bothered me … even when I was a kid I was a stickler like that!

    Yes, that parent-teacher conference blew me away. We’re weren’t asking for LW12′s grade to be marked down for mis-spelling, just that it be brought to her attention. She is stubborn like me, and if it wasn’t marked wrong, she would insist that was the proper spelling. Our older two kids had there “formative years” in a part of CT where, I tell you, Ts in the middle of words aren’t pronounced. “Mountain” becomes “moun-in”. That compounded the spelling issue. Now our younger two are being raised near Boston … I try to make sure they pronounce their Rs!

  • Not a control freak or age. I’m 22 and I still write out complete texts most of the time. I can still decipher most of the IM speech but it can be a bit annoying.

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