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The Abbreviation Generation: How Technology Will Be The Downfall Of The English Language

I'd like to pay my respects to a language that's quickly becoming the victim of an “abbreviation generation.” I'm talking about the YOLOs and the BFFs and the ROTFLMAOs.

Every one of you has that friend who has an abominable grasp on grammar, whose Facebook status updates and photo captions are cryptic, run-on sentences that require a team to decipher. (If you're thinking to yourself, “No I dont think I have that freind none of my freinds r like that,” then that “freind” is you.)

Here's a disturbing statistic for you: A 2013 United Nations report revealed that approximately six of the seven billion people around the world own a cell phone, but only 4.5 billion own or have access to a flushable toilet.

More people own cell phones than have access to toilets.

(Pause for reaction.)

While it's great that we're able to connect with people around the world — even more widely, given the advent of the smart phone — the quality of our connections appears to be diminishing. Since when is it okay for “your” and “you're” to be used interchangeably? Since when did the apostrophe in words like “it's,” “can't” and “won't” become optional? “Could of” does not make any sense, you guys!

A recent study of Canadian and Australian undergraduate students suggested that texting has little impact on the quality of academic and professional writing that young adults produce. Fine. Keep in mind, though, that we aren't the kids who learned to unlock our parents' iPhones before we could tie our shoelaces. Gen-Y, we aren't the ones to watch out for; it's the little guys who will grow up to be our colleagues, our employees and our “too-busy-texting-to-pay-attention” clientele.

Many of us grew up in a time that predates cell phones, when we had to manually tear the perforated edges off our printer paper and we questioned the utility of painstakingly slow Apple Macintosh computers. If you brought a tablet to school, it was Tylenol… not an iPad.

Truthfully, our generation has been guinea pigs for new technology for decades. Already in our lifetimes we've laid to rest the VCR, the cassette tape, the floppy disk and the original iPhone (you know, the one that looked like and weighed as much as a cement brick). The advantage to all of this change is that we're a very quick-to-learn generation that recognizes the importance of technology and its place in our society. Don't get me wrong: we love to Instagram our meals and share articles on our Facebook pages, but we also understand why face-to-face time matters.

…right?

Sometime between then and now, though, our society's increasing need for instant gratification and the immediacy of information (along with obvious forward leaps in technology) devolved into communication shortcuts that can shortchange communication completely. We don't call, we text. We forgo many conventions of the English language in the interest of cutting corners and saving time. We submit papers for grading without proofreading or regard for the simple fact that “you” and “u” are not the same. We're losing messages in a vacuum that I call language laziness.

Imagine my surprise (read: disappointment) when one of my best friends, an incredible teacher who devotes so much of her time and energy to promoting literacy, informed me that cursive writing was removed from educational curriculum years ago. That some of her students are actually incapable of reading text in cursive.

Is there no room for pen and paper in our society anymore? Are we too busy moving onto the next viral video, the next “it” trend, to pay attention to what we're saying and how we're saying it?

Word processing software has become the norm — in the classroom, in the study sphere and at the office. I'll be the first to admit that it's handy. In fact, it's how I wrote this very article. The problem is that software like Microsoft Word facilitates language laziness. We have access to spell checks and grammar checks that — while often wrong — do a decent job at correcting our mistakes for us rather than forcing us to learn from them. (How many of us really think we could pick out a sentence fragment on our own?) We say we love to learn languages, but I'm beginning to think we really just love to unlearn them.

I don't mean to sound preachy. All I'm saying is I think it's time we ground those who are guilty of language laziness… or at least put them to work. Let's physically remove them from their smart phones, dust off a spiral-bound notebook and force them to write an actual letter (using actual words).

Y? Bcuz we shud.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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Jessica Reimer

Contributor

Jessica Reimer is the brains and words behind Paper Plane Communications (www.paperplanecommunications.com), a writing and editing firm based in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. She is a strong supporter of the arts, local industry, cats, and naps.
Jessica Reimer is the brains and words behind Paper Plane Communications (www.paperplanecommunications.com), a writing and editing firm based in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. She is a strong supporter of the arts, local industry, cats, and naps.

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