English Skills

Text Speak

“Macbeth is pure mental” – is textspeak harming English Skills?

Experts differ on the effects of social media on literacy. Kim Bielenberg on the Gr8 debate

Same old story: Academics have been bemoaning the use of abbreviations since the time of Jonathan Swift

Kim Bielenberg – Published 09 April


Teachers and parents have been complaining about falling standards of written English since the time of Shakespeare, and the latest targets of their ire are textspeak and social media.

In Britain, head teachers have been writing their hands over perceived collapse in standards. There have been calls for a drive to stop the damaging impact of instant messaging. OMG, do they just need to lighten up?

A report in the Irish Times highlighted some of the phrases that popped up in school work and exams. They included such gems as “Macbeth” was pure mental” and “Hitler was majorly bad”.

Closer to home, the latest chief examiners report for leaving certificate English highlighted problems with grammer, spelling and punctuation.

“Examiners… voiced a degree of concern with the level of control of more formal aspects of language displayed by some candidates”

“Candidates at both higher and ordinary benefited when they exhibited an ability to structure their writing, organise paragraphs, spell accurately and employ punctuation”.

The chief examiner does not blame social media for the failure of students to grasp the mechanics of the language.

In Britain, however, language purists have pointed the finger at instant messaging and social media as chief perpetrators of crimes against literacy.

In an interview with the Times, head teacher Caroline Jordan complained that abbreviations and slang used in messaging were “eroding hard-learned skills”.

She also claimed pupils had a more limited vocabulary because they were spending less time reading books, but is it fair to point the finger at text speak?

In the 18th century, Jonathan Swift moaned that “most of the books we see nowadays are full of those manglings and abbreviations”

Amoung the newfangled words he complained about were “mob” (an abbreviation of mobile vulgus”) and banter. What would Swift make of the shortening of banter to “bantz” with teenagers “having de bantz” or even “megabantz”.

Irish Independant