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November 06, 2011 10:04 PM

What Message R U Sending?

sioux falls, sd

Nearly all of us have done it -- sent a text message or posted something on Facebook without double checking our spelling -- only to realize we probably should have.

With so much communication happening electronically, does grammar matter anymore?

College senior Sawyer Vanden Heuvel is a social media enthusiast. He has more than a thousand Facebook friends and tweets regularly.

And while spending ten hours a week on social media sites, he is often annoyed with what he sees.

"The worst is when you can't ever capitalize an 'I' or something like that," Vanden Heuvel said.

Grammatical errors like your and you're are common place in electronic communication, including misusing their, they're and there.

But word abbreviations and shorthand are also sneaking in, oftentimes mixing letters and numbers.

"There is a lot of shorthand on Facebook and I don't even want to bother reading what you're trying to say," Vanden Heuvel said. "You're not providing to the conversation, you're just adding noise to it."

But Ellen Ferry disagrees and uses shorthand regularly while texting.

"When I send a text message, you are limited to characters so it is easy to just put in a 'b' instead of a 'be' and a 'u' instead of 'you,' easy things like that," Ferry said.

But errors and shorthand often causes problems, especially if the recipient isn't familiar with the lingo.

"I know it is tricky when my friends send me a message and sometimes it's hard to decipher what they're saying," Ferry said. "But you can get your message across with just abbreviations."

Augustana College's Writing Center Director Nancy Dickenson says grammatical errors and shorthand are becoming all too common.

"When people are sending a text message, perhaps, it's not important if they don't capitalize the letter 'I' or if they use symbols 'u' or 'r', of course it is all okay. There isn't any need to slow down or proofread or anything like that," Dickenson said. 

Dickenson says incorrect grammar can be caused by carelessness of the writer and moving too fast. It rarely has to do with intelligence.

"I really don't think that the social media are dumbing us down or something like that. We have so many distractions in our life," Dickenson said.

Distractions or not, how are incorrect messages perceived by your recipient?

"I don't think stupid is the right word because that would be kind of rude, but almost kind of lazy," Emma Werling said.

"I think it is laziness a lot of the time or if people aren't good at spelling or they don't care," Rachel Saum said.

Dickenson says most people can get by sending a bad text to a friend but may want to pay closer attention online.

"Anything that is out there, that someone is going to continue to read, I think we would want to be careful about how we're presenting it," Dickenson said.

Vanden Heuvel agrees and adds that text recipients matter too.

"You also have to think about who you're sending it to because my generation is sending more stuff to bosses and people we work with," Vanden Heuvel said. "I think it is more important who you're trying to communicate to."

"When I have to send a text message to my parents, I have to be very clear and write things out," Ferry said. "But with my friends, I am definitely lazier."

And while many people look down on bad grammar, Dickenson says things could evolve.

"I don't think that people are becoming any dumber," Dickenson said. "I think the language is going to change. And perhaps, at some future time, the letter 'u' will stand for 'you' but not yet.

Before hitting send, Dickenson says it's a good idea to use spell-check and always spend another minute re-reading what you've written before you post it online.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
A misspelling was corrected in this story.



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