One-on-one online writing courses for kids in elementary, middle and high school. Building basic writing skills covering the mechanics of sentences and paragraphs.

Modern Technology: Has it Complicated Teaching Formal Writing?

by Ms. Leslie

When I was a student, back in prehistoric times – or at least pre-computer age times — all instructors had to teach us about writing were the basics. We learned about parts of speech, sentences, paragraphs, essays, and other essentials of becoming a literate writer. A writing teacher’s biggest challenge was getting us to realize that not every plot was like a Saturday morning cartoon.

These days, teachers are competing with video game systems, computers, and phones that do everything except feed you. As an online writing teacher, why would this prove to be a nuisance to me? The answer to this question is what I call, “computer speak.”

“Computer speak” is the language that students use to communicate when IM-ing, speaking in chat rooms, and texting. It has become quite a challenge to explain to students that the way they write and spell in these venues, is not the way one writes formally.

LOL – Laugh out loudly; IDK – I don’t know; and s’ up – what’s up for the computer-age language challenged, are great to use when sending messages. They are not, though, acceptable when writing a narrative or expository essay.

Happy face emoticons are also not formal writing appropriate. In fact, when training a couple of years ago to grade SAT essays for college entrance, scorers were told to count off for texting abbreviations and smiling or frowning faces.

So, each time I receive Time4Writing assignments filled with computer speak, I must explain to my students that while it is perfectly fine when communicating with friends online or on the phone, it is not acceptable to use when writing an expository essay about the treatment of the elderly. I try my best to show them the difference, but I am never quite sure they totally see their error.

IDK s’ up with these kids today. Oops! Is it contagious?

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