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.
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