The perception of you by others may not be what you think. This isn’t about occasional mistakes; we all make typographical errors on occasion. Typing in Textlish is an ongoing practice—a lifestyle, if you will. Seemingly there is no shame, acknowledgement, or awareness in the perpetrators. You may feel you’re always in too much of a hurry to take the extra 0.3 seconds to type “your” instead “ur.” However, the recipient of your Textlish may think you’re ignorant (as in uneducated). Note the fuzzy logic here: “It’s not that I don’t know better, I’m just always short on time.” Well, whenever the Textlish is not just “shortcuts” but also regularly full of blatant errors, such as “there” instead of “they’re” (or “their,” depending), then you leave readers with limited options about what to think. They might give you the benefit of the doubt, but several gaffes in a single post or message, or ongoing habits in every message, will likely push them toward seeing you as unlearned.
Lowering your own standards to type in Textlish is habit forming. Ever hear of “muscle memory”? Whenever you eventually need to switch on your “real English” for communications related to, say, a job interview, you might let something slip that could be detrimental to your reputation or simply less than putting your best foot forward. The habit of typing in Textlish gets entrenched like nicotine addiction, and slips are as noticeable as—well, let’s just say they are very noticeable.
The future deserves better. Textlish is becoming the de facto language of our tech-oriented culture. We’re all connected. “No man is an island.” Type well, and we all are elevated. Type poorly, and we all are brought lower. Your presentation of yourself in text, tweet, post, etc, has an impact on all who read it. Sadly, some “educators” (including, apparently, the authors of Common Core, a plan for nationwide educational standards being implemented in government schools) have reckoned cursive handwriting to be an outdated relic of the past, with plans to stop teaching it in public schools. If we don’t stand up for proper English in all our typed content, we’re allowing, even opting for, a lazy mishmash of confusing fragments as replacement for our established language’s words. Dictionaries give etymologies, which are the origins and histories behind our words. Imagine when, eventually, noble origins such as Greek, Latin, and Old English must be joined by “Textlish” (or some such description) as the explanation for a single letter being forced to stand in for three or four former words. Our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren deserve better.
It’s just not that hard to type it right to begin with. Sometimes the alleged “time savings” don’t make sense, because, after all, how much longer would it have taken to type out a real word? How much time does one “save” by typing one or two fewer characters of what should have been only a three- or four-letter word? And if we’re abbreviating, contracting, or leaving off letters for effect, how hard would it be to use the requisite periods and apostrophes? Don’t even get us started on the lack of commas and periods to denote where phrases and sentences are supposed to start and stop. The “Princess Leia” of this war between light and darkness is a preprogrammed digital assistant inside our phones. Thankfully, she types with proper grammar and spelling while taking dictation. Or, at least, she tries.
Darth Grammar. You really want to avoid death by strangulation. Some people are just that annoyed by it. (Just kidding.) We’ve given the darkness a name. Textlish. Won’t you join our quest to vanquish an enemy of all that is decent with regard to modern communication?
Thoughts to ponder about Textlish:
While this method of typing in a hyper-abbreviated “digital shorthand” seems to have resulted originally from limits imposed on the number of characters permitted in SMS text messages and tweets on Twitter.com, use of it has spread beyond SMS texting and tweeting, even into areas where there are no limits on the number of characters. Examples abound in nearly all typed content, including emails, Facebook posts, and blog articles, etc.
Its use in digital domains that do not limit users on the number of characters supports the observation that the practice is often based on factors other than the original (and potentially obsolete) need to stay under a character limit. These factors may include:
- Once a habit has formed, the behavior happens even when and where it is not needed.
- People who were never subject to character limits learn the behavior from others, and emulate it to “fit in.”
- People who were never subject to character limits may be undereducated and may learn the behavior as a common practice, possibly being unaware that it is not proper English.
- People may take up or maintain the habit simply out of either laziness, desire to conform to trends, or desire to rebel against “the establishment.”
These potential factors support the concern that the practice could become ubiquitous, displacing proper grammar and spelling with ill-advised, confusing fragments that are a poor substitute for the language structure slowly being replaced.