Recent­ly, I was read­ing some com­ments in a Face­book Group thread, when I came across this com­ment using texts­peak:

i have np with ur state­ment but u have to be objec­tive every­one who does not want to talk about bvs and civ­il war are free to post some­thing else

I want to be care­ful that I don’t come across as judge­men­tal or clas­sist in this post. I’m not try­ing to make fun of someone’s spelling and gram­mar. Rather I want to touch on the wider issue of mes­sage acces­si­bil­i­ty.

One thing you’ll notice in this excerpt is a lack of punc­tu­a­tion. This is com­mon with texts­peak. From what I can deter­mine, there are two sen­tences here:

i have np with ur state­ment, but u have to be objec­tive. every­one who does not want to talk about bvs and civ­il war are free to post some­thing else.

Notice the com­ma and two peri­ods I insert­ed. By leav­ing them out, the orig­i­nal author makes it more dif­fi­cult to read the mes­sage. The read­er is forced to deci­pher where one sen­tence ends and anoth­er begins, which increas­es the time it takes to read and com­pre­hend the mes­sage, decreas­ing its read­abil­i­ty.

Anoth­er com­mon fea­ture of text speak is the ten­den­cy to abbre­vi­ate words. In this com­ment, the abbre­vi­a­tions “ur” and “u” (or oth­ers, like “r” for “are”) are fair­ly well-known, in my opin­ion, so I don’t think they impede com­pre­hen­sion sig­nif­i­cant­ly. Oth­er abbre­vi­a­tions, how­ev­er (such as “np” for “no prob­lem” in this case), may be more obscure, again forc­ing users to deci­pher the mes­sage.

Here is the com­ment with the abbre­vi­a­tions replaced:

i have no prob­lem with your state­ment, but you have to be objec­tive. every­one who does not want to talk about bat­man vs. super­man and civ­il war are free to post some­thing else.

(I didn’t both­er edit­ing the cap­i­tal­iza­tion issues because I think that’s beyond the scope of this post, and I don’t think the lack of cap­i­tal­iza­tion, in this case, impedes under­stand­ing of the mes­sage.)

Notice the dif­fer­ence between the orig­i­nal texts­peak com­ment I post­ed above and the edit­ed com­ment I post­ed with the punc­tu­a­tion added and the abbre­vi­a­tions replaced. The lat­ter is much eas­i­er to com­pre­hend, decreas­ing read­ing time.

Now, I com­plete­ly under­stand the argu­ment that text speak saves time, and I think it has a place for things like tex­ting, where it’s quite ubiq­ui­tous. How­ev­er, I believe that in pub­lic forums like Face­book, where mul­ti­ple peo­ple will read what you write, it behooves us to keep our mes­sage as acces­si­ble as pos­si­ble. That means using punc­tu­a­tion to sep­a­rate thoughts and spelling out obscure abbre­vi­a­tions.

Writ­ing clear­ly isn’t just about mak­ing sure our writ­ing meets arbi­trary rules for gram­mar, spelling, and punc­tu­a­tion. It’s mit­i­gat­ing the risk of oth­ers mis­un­der­stand­ing what you’re say­ing and cour­te­ous­ly sav­ing them time when they’re read­ing your mes­sage.

About Kim Siever

I am a copy­writer and copy­ed­i­tor. I blog on writ­ing tips most­ly, but I some­times throw in my thoughts about run­ning a small busi­ness.

Fol­low me on Twit­ter at @hotpepper.

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