Is Twitter Helping Millennials Destroy the English Language?

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Earlier this year, Maria Enie discussed the impact of texting on the English language in this blog post. While I understand that texting and micro-blogging is part of an evolution of the English language, I am concerned that the informal texting language is becoming the English language for Millennials. This Ragan.com article discusses the negative impact that texting and tweeting can have on the English language, or as this article calls it “an erosion of the English language.”

A 2008 study by the Pew Research Center on “Writing, Technology and Teens” found that “nearly two-thirds of all teens use some informal styles from their text-based communications in their school assignments, a fact that should trouble most educators.” Do you talk to your friends the same way that you speak to your professors or your boss? You do if you bring your texting and tweeting language into papers, assignments and…gasp…cover letters or other business communication.

As a Millennial myself, I find it disheartening that my peers are bringing their texting and tweeting language into the classroom and workplace. Sure, none of us can remember a time without Internet and cell phones, but does that mean that we can no longer separate informal conversations from formal ones? According to the Ragan article:

There are growing signs that excessive use of direct messaging, especially Twitter, leads to an erosion of the English language. College professors are seeing LOL-speak, fractured grammar, informal acronyms and emoticons crop into college essays. Teachers are noticing more punctuation errors (especially apostrophe errors), spelling mistakes, and inconsistent capitalization usually found only in text messages and Twitter posts. More students are failing English exams due to a lack of basic grammar skills.

I find this disturbing because while the concise, micro-blogging style of writing may help the English language evolve, texting language becomes a problem if people are unable to differentiate tweeting from college essays or business communication. This is not just a problem for the public relations and communication world–all industries need employees that can write well.

My advice to college students and recent graduates is to always think about your audience. As PR professionals know, we have different messages and mediums for different audiences. When you are talking with friends it is okay to use the abbreviated texting and tweeting language. However, when communicating with a professor or business colleague, either in person or in writing, it is important to take on a more formal and traditional style of speaking and writing.

This is especially important when you are first entering the professional world, as many Millennials are, because you want your colleagues to take you seriously and you will spend (at least) the first few years of your career proving that you are capable of handling the tasks that are expected of you. However, you should also think about how you can use your knowledge of the micro-blogging language to your advantage when you enter the professional world. For example, you could demonstrate your concise (and grammatically correct!) writing skills honed on Twitter.

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