Does writing quality suffer when use of the Internet and mobile technology increases?

Wes Muilenburt (left) and Nicholas Yopp attend a writing class taught by Tina Lee at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. A new report from the Pew Research Center says technology has both helped and hurt students’ writing habits. (Tim Post/MPR News)

“I think they have sloppy habits of mind, and I think that the Internet feeds into that.” – Mara Corey, Irondale High School teacher

Most teachers, 68 percent, say use of the Internet and mobile technology leads students to take shortcuts in their writing, reports MPR News reporter Tim Post.

A recent survey says social media has given students a new outlet for their writing.

That’s a good thing.

But what’s not so good is the informal style and sloppiness of texting and social media that’s finding its way into students’ assignments.

Some Minnesota teachers have already figured out that they have to tell students to keep texting-speak out of their work.

Nicholas Yopp, who attended a writing class for high school-aged students recently at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, has heard the warning.

“In my school, the teachers, before they give us any assignment,” he said, “every one of them has made it very clear that you will get a very low grade if you put texting acronyms in there.”

Sixteen-year-old Jorie Schwab from Grant, Minn., insisted she never uses texting shortcuts in her schoolwork.

But Schwab understands how other students slip up.

“I don’t even know if they realize it when they’re writing,” she said. “But it’s just such a part of their language that they just write it.”

Kristen Purcell is director of the Pew Center’s Internet and American Life Project.

The project recently surveyed nearly 2,500 middle and high school teachers across the country about the writing habits of students.

“Some of that informal style and language does creep into [students'] formal writing,” she said, “so that’s something that [teachers] have to address with their students.”

Today’s Question: Does writing quality suffer when use of the Internet and mobile technology increases?

  • Gary F

    Yes, and verbal skills.

    Being the parent of a 17 year old I see the lack of good phone skills, the use of persuasion, voice inflection, conversation.

    I really wonder how they will develop into society’s next leaders? Of will the ones with writing and verbal skills be the ones who lead?

  • PaulJ

    The crowd sourced nature of the internet promotes a fragmented and shallow, sound bite style. Some people may like writing with this quality; I suffer.

  • PaulJ

    PS Those guys in the picture don’t seem to know how to use a pencil.

  • KTN

    “me fail english, thats unpossible”.
    Ralph Wiggums 4th grader

  • david

    Ask anyone born in the UK, and they would say American’s have always butchered the language. But language is always evolving, and one thing I do know is not many English teachers stress writing for your audience. There’s a time and place for text-speak, if the student uses it inappropriately then yes, they fail. Stop blaming the technology if that technology is doing a better job teaching then you are.

    • CUL8R

      OMG, BTW it’s…a better job teaching THAN you are. LOL ROFL

      • david

        Oh snap!

  • Jim G

    Sometimes I find that I need to emphasize that writing and texting are not the same. That it’s easy for me to spot plagiarism. Then the kids will rise to the expectations of their teachers/tutors, but they’ll also sink to the lowest common denominator if you let them. I don’t let them.

  • JQP

    an older generation never understands changes that younger generations apply to their “gifted” language. Essentially – each generation adapts language to communicate among themselves in the most efficient manner. the current “older generations” decry it as loss of standard, functionality, exchange and respect – when in fact – they did the very same thing to their predecessors and …. upon reaching the “age” of authority are masking their cohorts inability to keep abreast of the changes the next generation is creating.

    In short, perpetuating the myth that how they themselves communicate is the only way to do so and that any change or innovation is blasphemy of some degree.

    Give it up boomers and sub-boomers…. this isn’t technology DRIVING the process…… its technology allowing it to happen faster.

    • Laila

      I couldn’t agree more… my grandparents are always talking about how its the end of the world, how my generation is so lazy and awful. I’ve become the most educated person in my immediate family with my Masters, and at 24 I feel that technology and texting isn’t hurting me at all! It’s making me a better writer if anything.

    • JasonB

      While historically correct your comment not only confirms inevitable change between generations but also accepts bad grammar on an individual level. While the “older generation” can’t stop the collective whole of the next generation’s changes I think some in this next wave use it as a justification for their own personal bad skills.

  • Gary F

    Here is something an almost 50 year old guy like me had a hard time believing, but it was straight from the teachers mouth.

    High school kids are submitting their homework on a Google docs site, and rarely ever are printing it out or even writing on a piece of paper. But when they do, like for a math assignment, kids don’t realize they have to actually write their names at the top of the paper. The teacher than has to figure out a handful of assignments each time that don’t have have names on it. It’s quite frustrating.

    Who woulda thunk it.

  • Karen

    34 year old female here. The last time I wrote down even a shopping list on paper was over 3 months ago; last printed sheet of paper, nearly twice as long. My mother would roll in her grave if she saw my chicken scratch.

  • Jim

    Unquestionably. I’m in my early 30’s, which means I came of age at the time the internet was just taking off. From what I see on social media and even in e-mail (which I guess is now email), basic grammar and sentence structure are more of an exception than the norm. I see this not only from my young nieces and nephews in their teens and those in their early 20’s (who came of age when texting began to take off), but also from a number of people in my own age group. That says nothing of handwriting, which really is a different subject altogether.

  • kevins

    I teach at a local liberal arts college. Most students are bright and achievement oriented. I advise them not to depend on spell check when giving me a written assignment, but some clearly don’t hear me. Lots of homynyms situated akwardly, and they lose points as a result. After that, they seem to understand. I don’t see many problems with written expression that I would directly attribute to internet and mobile echnology, but I have had students look at me quizically when I tell them they should go to the college library to research their topics…wikipedia is soooooo much easier.

  • lindblomealges

    In my experience, what’s missing from writing is editing, sentence structure, and variable uses of words’ definitions. The editing, in particular, is crucially lacking because TIME rules writing. The audience, be they professors, customers, supervisors, friends, or family members, wants your thoughts and ideas RIGHT NOW, even if you’ve composed a sentence that contains 4 different, unrelated thoughts jumbled into one. What technology has done is fostered more creativity, especially among teens who have created another language literally through the use of abbreviations.

  • Nature Love

    Technology has the promise to make us better writer in shorter time than ever before. What we need are readers and surfers who care about writing and refuse to read or comment on poorly written online material. Reward good writing within the newly emerging technologies and writing skill will be high.

  • boof

    I dont know, does it? You long-blog-title-writing-motherfucker..