Communication Breakdown

A subject that’s been floating around for over a decade or so: is cyber slang destroying the English language?

I believe so, or more than that, it’s destroying the ‘connection’ people have with one another.. communication skills have plummeted along with that, as I explain later. As far as I’m concerned, gone is any ‘warmth’ to the communication whereby the underlying ‘tones’ of the written language is certainly ‘lost’ in translation to this cyber slang.

Internet acronyms, text message jargon, abbreviations, initialisms, cyber slang, leetspeak, SMS code, textese.

I use ellipses a lot, even in my posts at WordPress, usually intended either for ‘what is not said’ or merely a pause for the reader to ‘think’ even briefly.

Interesting though, how some people ‘see’ and interpret English differently, I read recently someone referring to the ‘use’ of ellipses ‘creepy’, where I just saw the phrase as nothing of the sort, poetic even.

  1. Ellipsis (plural ellipses; from the Ancient Greek: ἔλλειψις, élleipsis, “omission” or “falling short”) is a series of dots that usually indicates an intentional omission of a word, sentence, or whole section from a text without altering its original meaning.

From Voxy in 2012:

Textese, or in other words text speak has led to an ongoing debate on whether it is destroying the English language as we know it. Every turn we take on the streets teenagers are ‘tapping’ away on their phones. According to a study by The Neilson Company an average teenager sends over 3000 texts a day. Texting has become a growing worldwide habit.

Textese includes abbreviated words, combination of letters and numbers and completely new words that create ultra-concise and meaningful messages. There are two sides to the argument; is textese ‘vandalising’ the English language or is beneficial to education?

Women Texting ~ by Björn Bechstein
Women Texting ~ by Björn Bechstein

I’ll go with the idea that it’s vandalising the English language any day 🙂 Also that it’s destroying the younger generations communication skills.

From as far back as 2009, is a good description of what I’m talking about:


But young people are increasingly unable to distinguish when it’s appropriate to use it, say some linguists. Their language is becoming saturated by slang, leaving them ill-equipped to communicate in the wider world.

Paul Kerswill, professor of sociolinguistics at Lancaster University, is studying street language in London. He says an entirely new dialect is emerging.

“Young people are growing up with a new form of composite language. It’s a bit cockney, a bit West Indian, a bit West African, with some Bangladeshi and Kuwaiti – and it seems to be replacing traditional cockney.”

This “multicultural English” is now the ordinary way of speaking for many young people, he says. Instead of just using it to be cool or to fit in with peers, they use it when they speak to everyone.

And those who use it are losing any sense of “appropriacy” – the important skill of turning it on and off in different situations.

This was great reading and much more at the link provided:

From John Hopkins School of Education

Academic Effects of Instant Messaging
While everyone recognizes that IM is widely used by adolescents and teens in the United States, there seem to be two distinct opinions of its effect on student academics. There are those who see the use of so-called “Internet English” as a breakdown of the English language – according to a recent newspaper article, “Some teachers see the creeping abbreviations as part of a continuing assault of technology on formal written English” (Lee, 2002). Conversely, there are those who regard this same “Internet English” not only as an example of how language is constantly developing and changing, but also as a type of literacy in and of itself, which can be capitalized on to engage students in more traditional learning. As professor Barbara Bell believes, “anytime (students) are reading or writing, it’s going to help” (Associated Press, 2003, p.1).

One concern about IM has to do with the “bastardization” of language. Several articles indicate that students who use messaging on a frequent basis often use bad grammar, poor punctuation, and improper abbreviations in academic writing. According to Lee (2002), “teachers say that papers are being written with shortened words, improper capitalization and punctuation, and characters like &, $ and @. ” However, something that is not always considered is that these mistakes are often unintentional – when students use IM frequently, they reach a saturation point where they no longer notice the IM lingo because they are so used to seeing it. Montana Hodgen, a 16-year old high school student in Montclair, New Jersey, “was so accustomed to instant-messaging abbreviations that she often read right past them” (Lee, 2002). As she puts it, “I was so used to reading what my friends wrote to me on Instant Messenger that I didn’t even realize that there was something wrong,” she said. She said her ability to separate formal and informal English declined the more she used instant messages” (Lee, 2002).

From Copyediting also in 2012

Technically known as short message service (SMS) language, texting aims to reduce the number of characters needed to transmit a comprehensible message. But texting language has roots that date back to long before the advent of the cell phone and instant messaging (IM). Beginning in the 19th century, telegram messages included many of the same abbreviations and codes we see in today’s IM and texting language, as have the more recent phenomena of vanity license plate abbreviations.

In the 1861 classic Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens, Pip tries his hand at sending Uncle Joe a would-be IM via a note scrawled on a frost-covered slate:


This doesn’t exactly make the case for shorthand having a beneficial effect on grammatical precision, but it is one example that demonstrates that the concept of textual shorthand is nothing new. In many ways, it goes beyond language and into the world of encryption and coding and decoding, giving literacy a whole new meaning. Plester, Wood, and Joshi (2009) define literacy today as “the ability to decode information in various orthographic formats, including digital media, to make meaning from it, and to encode information into those formats to communicate ideas to others.” The researchers also note that those who use textisms have high “phonological awareness.” They believe, as I do, that “any engagement with the written word … is beneficial” for youngsters. And according to research by Nenagh Kemp of the University of Tasmania, students who were adept at using textese were found to have better literacy skills than those who were less able to produce such language.

The following is from a wordpress blog, and the category of ‘Text Messaging and Literacy’ There are some great articles and references at the link:

From Language Debates 

The first text message was sent in 1992 by Neil Papworth wishing Richard Jarvis a “Merry Christmas” (Arthur 2012) and ever since then, text messaging has become a global phenomenon. In fact, in 2011, Alexander (2011) claimed that 60% of human beings are active ‘texters’ – that’s approximately 4.2 billion people! Nevertheless, not everyone is keen on the idea of texting. Many linguists, teachers and parents believe texting is dumbing down literacy and are concerned that it is affecting students’ schoolwork. But can sending a text really affect how well you do in school?

Not to forget the rise of cyber bullying.. I believe that this ‘cold’ side of social media also stems from this lack of communication with ‘depth’ making it all too easy indeed. I do remember helping my daughter through an ‘attack’ of this type, unfortunately, it was on her phone and someone that had her number; sending grievous texts / sms.


Since the advent of Twitter and Instagram, as a means of communication also has people using hashtags even in simple messages.. ‘to be seen’, therefore the emphasis in personable communication is once again lost.  With words only offering a tiny 7% as the graph for communication shows, that leaves a huge gap to be filled with the non-verbal and tone of your communication. Therefore, I’ll mention again, that it’s only with nuances in grammar and linguistic diversity and the use of them that helps, with communication via sms, social media, emails and general internet use.

communication-breakdown 2


5 thoughts on “Communication Breakdown

  1. English is fluid, it is more than robust enough to absorb “textese” or any other such variations.. Modern kids speak English anyway, the need for txt language is older than clamshell phones, just my opinion BTW 😀


        1. 😀 It’s not that they can’t ‘use’ English.. Nor that the ‘Language’ cannot ‘cope’.. Seems that the argument is lost to you, As it’s about Effective Communication and the Loss of it via sms and social media.. perhaps you ‘ducked’ because it’s referring to something you do 🙂 All the best, and thanks for your input 🙂


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.