Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The phone is mightier than the pen

An education commission out of Ireland has come to a conclusion that we've had for a while. That conclusion? The popularity of text messaging is causing harm to more traditional writing. Reasons for this are many, but some of those cited include the reliance on phonetic spelling, and the insistence on using at least one number in every third word. Nevermind the shortened phrases and lack of overall punctuation generally featured in text messages.

The commission came to their conclusions after reviewing the written exams of 15-year-olds in Ireland, and comparing them to numbers from just a few years ago. The quality of the writing has, apparently, dropped off significantly. As the report states, many of the essayists seemed to be "unduly reliant on short sentences, simple tenses and a limited vocabulary." Unfortunately, many of those to which the report applies were confused by words such as "unduly", "tenses", and "on". Again, largely because no numbers appeared in place of letters.

Of course, this is all coming shortly after the National Texting Championship that we mentioned earlier in the week. So hey, there's apparently a cloud to that silver lining. Sure, being quick with your text messages could earn you a great deal of money. But it also could lead to sloppy writing, poor grammar, and, overall, looking like you stuck a little too closely to the Ernest Hemmingway School of Prose.

Naturally, if you would conduct a similar study of students worldwide at the age of 25, you would quite probably find a similar drop-off in quality. Our own hypothesis behind the reasoning for this would be the "unduly reliant on short sentences, simple tenses and a limited vocabulary", this time caused by excessive drinking, instead of text messaging. Besides, we still haven't figured out how to verbalize a number into, "I love you, man", always a calling card of the drinking set.

Ultimately, we know that species adapt, and, with the advent of text messaging, we expect that another adaptation is coming before too long. We expect that, in future generations, you will be able to see humans with sharper eyes (for reading tiny cell-phone screens), and with tiny, dextrous, and calloused thumbs. The species will lose the ability to speak, and we'll only be able to communicate with each other through a series of grunts and elaborate, multi-numbered text messages.

It'll be kind of like watching televised baseball, except less depressing.

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