OMG! Chatroom Speak Infects Homework

Dennis Faas's picture

American teachers are increasingly finding Internet chatroom and forum-style abbreviations are showing up in their pupils' assignments. A survey of 700 teenagers found more than one-third say they have used abbreviations such as LOL (Laugh Out Loud) in schoolwork. A quarter said they'd even used emoticons, the combinations of punctuation marks which represent different emotions and are traditionally used in online writing to replicate the tone and body language which accompanies spoken language.

More than 40% of those surveyed said programs such as Microsoft Word encouraged poor grammar and spelling (presumably because they were too reliant on spell check features).

However, the study had some surprising findings for those who believe technology is killing the art of communication. 60% of the teenagers said they didn't classify emails and text messages as 'writing'. The report's co-author Amanda Lenhart said "There is clearly a big gap in the minds of teenagers between the 'real' writing they do for school and the texts they compose for their friends."

The survey also found that 86% of the teenagers believed writing skills were an important part of their future success, while 93% wrote outside of school for their own pleasure. And despite the widespread use of computers, most teenagers prefer writing by hand. (Source:

Most of those who responded to the survey said using 'text speak' in assignments was something they did occasionally or even accidentally. That's a big change from a British schoolgirl who caused headlines a few years ago by handing in an essay that began:

"My smmr hols wr CWOT. B4, we usd 2go2 NY 2C my bro, his GF & thr 3 :- kds FTF. ILNY, it's a gr8 plc."

Eventually her teacher deciphered it as:

"My summer holidays were a complete waste of time. Before, we used to go to New York to see my brother, his girlfriend and their three screaming kids face to face. I love New York, it's a great place." (Source:

As the new study shows, this seems to be an isolated example. Most students seem to have a decent understanding of how different styles of language are appropriate for different situation. As long as they remember this distinction, the study's findings suggest that today's youths are just as interested in writing as the older generation.

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