Why You Should Discourage Your Children from Writing in Techspeak

by Tamara N. Jones

Techspeak is the use of common acronyms and abbreviations in lieu of fully spelled out words you wish to communicate. For example: ADN – Any Day Now, CWYL – Chat With You Later and WE – Whatever, you get the point. Are there times when it is helpful to use shortcuts? Yes! For instance, I find myself using it when I am about to go underground and know that the time I take to say “See you in five minutes”, I can say “cu in 5”. Under circumstances such as this, using shortcut works in my favor. But for children, using techspeak as their primary written communication with friends and family every single day, it is not advantageous to their developing mind. As a matter of fact, it endangers their cognitive development. According to professor S. Shyam Sundar and Drew P. Cingel, in their article Texting, techspeak, and tweens The relationship between text messaging and English grammar skills, adolescents, 13-17, are more likely to use “techspeak”. This habitual way of writing not only “rob[s] this age group of a fundamental understanding of standard English grammar”, but also affects their performance on grammar assessments. Though text messaging technologies are useful and convenient, there is “a general relationship between messaging and adolescent grammar skills”. One of Sundar and Cingel interesting findings is relationship between messages received and messages sent. It seems  adolescents adapt their language based on the messages they receive. In other words, if the message they receive reads “lol gr8 4 u” they are likely to respond in techspeak as well.

One of the most troublesome findings in their research is that adolescents are not able to successfully code switch. Most adolescents cannot switch from techspeak to correct English in the classroom. This is problem as there is an upward trend in using technology in classroom to teach adolescents and techspeak has now found itself in the classroom and “these adaptations carry over into standard writing practices”. One particular fallout that Sundar and Cingel do not cover, and I suppose it is because it is not within the scope of their research, is this written adaptation can carry over in speech. I often hear adolescents speak in techspeak to each other. With techspeak and slang, it is nearly impossible to understand what is being said. Sadly, just like in writing, these adolescents do not see that there is a time and a place for everything. When speaking to your teacher, saying “omg teach” is not the proper or respectful way of communicating with someone in a position of authority. It muddles the boundaries, if not, erase them.

How can you prevent your child/children from becoming  a victim? Require that they communicate with you in standard English. As the research noted, adolescents are likely to respond in the similar way the message was received. This includes avoiding conjugations. Write “it is” instead of “it’s”. Just as techspeak is a form of habit, standard English can also become their new habit at least when communicating with their parents and other adults.

Advertisements

A Harvard linguist reveals the most misused words in English

Some languages, like French, have an official body that decides how words can and cannot be used.

English, as a flexible, global language, has no such designated referee.

Therefore, there is no definitive answer to whether you’re using a word “correctly.”

It’s all a matter of taste and context. But there are opinions. And some count more than others.

Steven Pinker is probably as good an expert to ask as anyone. Helpfully, the renowned Harvard linguist and best-selling authorrecently wrote a book, titled “The Sense of Style,” that aims to help readers improve their use of the English language.

If you’re in the market for an update to , old Strunk and White, it’s probably a good buy. But if you just want to spot-check that you’ve not been making embarrassing language mistakes for years, a monster list of 58 commonly misused phrases covered in the book that recently appeared in the UK’s Independent newspaper is probably a good place to start.

Here are some highlights:

  1. Adverse means “detrimental.” It does not mean “averse” or “disinclined.” Correct: “There were adverse effects.” / “I’m not averse to doing that.”
  2. Appraise means to “ascertain the value of.” It does not mean to “apprise” or to “inform.” Correct: “I appraised the jewels.” / “I apprised him of the situation.”
  3. Beg the question means that a statement assumes the truth of what it should be proving; it does not mean to “raise the question.” Correct: “When I asked the dealer why I should pay more for the German car, he said I would be getting ‘German quality,’ but that just begs the question.”
  4. Bemused means “bewildered.” It does not mean “amused.” Correct: “The unnecessarily complex plot left me bemused.” / “The silly comedy amused me.”
  5. Cliché is a noun, not an adjective. The adjective is clichéd. Correct: “Shakespeare used a lot of clichés.” / “The plot was so clichéd.”
  6. Data is a plural count noun not, standardly speaking, a mass noun. [Note: “Data is rarely used as a plural today, just as candelabra and agenda long ago ceased to be plurals,” Pinker writes. “But I still like it.”] Correct: “This datum supports the theory, but many of the other data refute it.”
  7. Depreciate means to “decrease in value.” It does not mean to “deprecate” or to “disparage.” Correct: “My car has depreciated a lot over the years.” / “She deprecated his efforts.”
  8. Disinterested means “unbiased.” It does not mean “uninterested.” Correct: “The dispute should be resolved by a disinterested judge.” / “Why are you so uninterested in my story?”
  9. Enormity refers to extreme evil. It does not mean “enormousness.” [Note: It is acceptable to use it to mean a deplorable enormousness.] Correct: “The enormity of the terrorist bombing brought bystanders to tears.” / “The enormousness of the homework assignment required several hours of work.”
  10. Hone means to “sharpen.” It does not mean to “home in on” or “to converge upon.” Correct: “She honed her writing skills.” / “We’re homing in on a solution.”
  11. Hung means “suspended.” It does not mean “suspended from the neck until dead.” Correct: “I hung the picture on my wall.” / “The prisoner was hanged.”
  12. Ironic means “uncannily incongruent.” It does not mean “inconvenient” or “unfortunate.” Correct: “It was ironic that I forgot my textbook on human memory.” / “It was unfortunate that I forgot my textbook the night before the quiz.”
  13. Nonplussed means “stunned” or “bewildered.” It does not mean “bored” or “unimpressed.” Correct: “The market crash left the experts nonplussed.” / “His market pitch left the investors unimpressed.”
  14. Parameter refers to a variable. It not mean “boundary condition” or “limit.” Correct: “The forecast is based on parameters like inflation and interest rates.” / “We need to work within budgetary limits.”
  15. Phenomena is a plural count noun — not a mass noun. Correct: “The phenomenon was intriguing, but it was only one of many phenomena gathered by the telescope.”
  16. Shrunk, sprung, stunk, and sunk are past participles–not words in the past tense. Correct: “I’ve shrunk my shirt.” / “I shrank my shirt.”
  17. Simplistic means “naively or overly simple.” It does not mean “simple” or “pleasingly simple.” Correct: “His simplistic answer suggested he wasn’t familiar with the material.” / “She liked the chair’s simple look.”
  18. Verbal means “in linguistic form.” It does not mean “oral” or “spoken.” Correct: “Visual memories last longer than verbal ones.”
  19. Effect means “influence”; to effect means “to put into effect”; to affect means either “to influence” or “to fake.” Correct: “They had a big effect on my style.” / “The law effected changes at the school.” / “They affected my style.” / “He affected an air of sophistication to impress her parents.”
  20. Lie (intransitive: lies, lay, has lain) means to “recline”; lay (transitive: lays, laid, has laid) means to “set down”; lie (intransitive: lies, lied, has lied) means to “fib.” Correct: “He lies on the couch all day.” / “He lays a book upon the table.” / “He lies about what he does.”

It should be noted that while it’s always good to polish up your writing, one of the joys of language is that it isn’t fixed in time. It evolves. Nor is there a single “correct” style (in English, at least).

You’d neither connect nor impress if you chose your words like an Oxford don at a rap battle (though, actually, someone please make that YouTube video), and you’d be unlikely to get a job at an investment bank today speaking like Shakespeare.

Why is this important? It’s easy to get too caught up in being perfectly “correct” and become a tedious language snob. Remember you probably want to come across as intelligent and thoughtful, not uptight and pedantic. So don’t get so worked up over the little things that you miss the larger point of good writing — to communicate clearly and engagingly with your chosen audience.

Stop using these 19 common words until you know what they really mean

Mouth tapeKatie Tegtmeyer/Flickr“Reticent” just means shy. It doesn’t mean reluctant.

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.

They’re just words, aren’t they?

Why shouldn’t they take on new meanings as people start to use them incorrectly?

Indeed, “silly” once mean “blessed” and then “pious.” There’s a certain justice in where it’s ended up.

Fundamentalists won’t have it, though. They insist on specific interpretations only.

Ergo, because you’re likely more righteous than I am and still want to climb some virtual, figurative ladder, here are 18 words and 1 phrase (consisting of three words) that don’t mean what many people think they do.

They come courtesy of Harvard linguist Steven Pinker and his book “The Sense Of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide To Writing In The 21st Century.”

I worry when books claim to offer a “Thinking Person’s Guide.” It’s so ineffably elitist. It suggests that some people don’t think, that they function like underintelligent organisms.

Still, you fancy yourself a thinking person, don’t you? So these suggestions are perfect for you. Pinker does explain, “Here is a list of words, which I am prepared to try to dissuade you from using in their nonstandard sense.”

So he’s not a complete meanie.

1. Appraise.

You, as a thinking person, must become frustrated every time you hear someone say they have “appraised the board of the current situation.” This literally means they have “valued the board of the current situation.” Which makes as much sense as most of what is usually said in board meetings. You apprise the board of something. Your pawnbroker appraises a necklace you picked up in a parking lot.

2. Begs The Question.

You know what this doesn’t mean? It doesn’t mean “raises the question.” It simply means “assuming what it should be proving.” For example, when you ask the nice tight-suited man at your local Gucci store, why you should pay more for Gucci products and he says you’ll be getting “Gucci quality,” that just begs the question.

3. Bemused.

It sounds almost the same as “amused,” so some people believe that “bemused” is, perhaps, a squeezing of “being amused.” Or maybe a stronger level of amusement. It isn’t. It’s just the state of being bewildered.

4. Clich.

Americans aren’t too good with French words at the best of times. Just ask them to pronounce — or spell, for that matter — “chaise-longue.” Clich is just a noun. It isn’t an adjective. It’s not risqu. It should be pass.

5. Disinterested.

I’m (not) sure you’re not one of these people, but some believe that this means the same as “uninterested.” Because discombobulated is the same as uncombobulated, I suppose. Save it. It only means fair and balanced like Fox News.

6. Enormity.

You might be enormously disturbed by this one. Enormity does not mean “extreme bigness.” It’s true, says Pinker, that some writers insist that enormity can mean “extremely big evil.” But enormity is always evil, alright? It’s not necessarily big.

7. Enervate.

I’ve made this mistake before. I think I’m going to make it again, just for snits and giggles. Enervate does not mean, has never meant, “getting on nerves” nor “to charge you up.” It actually means to sap or weaken. Let’s face it, though, the word is just too energetic to mean that.

8. Flounder.

“Flounder” and “Founder” are often used interchangeably, unless you’re talking fish or Silicon Valley. The truth is that that floundering simply means to flap about without any useful consequences. It doesn’t mean “sink to the bottom.” Although, I suppose you could flap around without any consequences until you sink to the bottom.

9. Fortuitous.

I’ve sunk to the bottom with this one, too, once or twice. It doesn’t mean “lucky.” It just doesn’t. It means “coincidental.”

10. Fulsome.

You’ve offered fulsome praise before, haven’t you? Perhaps even a fulsome apology. Please admit it. Please then admit that what you’ve offered is “excessively and insincerely complimentary praise.” Or, indeed, “an unctuous apology.” I’d like to offer a fulsome apology to the word “fulsome.”

11. Hone.

You hone in on things, I feel sure of it. At least, you’ve done it once or twice. Which would, in fact, suggest you’ve sharpened in on something. I get what you mean. A fundamentalist would not be happy, however. Please make sure you merely home in on things in the future.

12. Irregardless.

This word doesn’t exist. However, if you’ve invented it, I secretly admire you. For your courage, if not for creating a word that is, um, over-superfluous. There “irrespective” and there’s “regardless.” You may choose from those.

13. Meretricious.

This is one of those tricky words that seems to be about merit. In a way, it is. It lies somewhere along the axis of sleazy to tawdry. It means nauseatingly insincere. Which means it cannot mean “deserving of reward or praise.” Unless, of course, you liked praising the sleazy.

14. Opportunism.

This word is all about taking. It is not about creating. It means taking an opportunity or capitalizing upon it. It does not mean “creating or promoting opportunities.” So when a politician champions economic opportunism, he’s talking nonsense. But you already knew politicians talked nonsense, right? Except for Donald Trump. He’s just opportunistic.

15. Parameter.

You love setting parameters, don’t you? You’ve been in meetings where parameters were set and even drawn. But parameters aren’t borders or limits. They’re merely variables. I know it feels like a downgrade for the word. But look what the Catholic Church did to St. Christopher.

16. Reticent.

This just means shy. It doesn’t mean reluctant. Yes, shy people can be reluctant to do things. On the other hand, they could be reluctant just to do things with you. In fact, though they’re shy, they could be the most daring people of all.

17. Simplistic.

Please tell me you’ve never bought simplistic art. Oh, wait. Here’s some. Never mind. But “simplistic” means “navely or overly simple.” It doesn’t mean: “Gosh, this simplicity is so beautiful that it lifts my heart to the moon.”

18. Tortuous.

Roads can be tortuous, therefore twisty. They can’t be painful. If they were, they’d be torturous. They wouldn’t be tortuous. Is that logic too tortuous for you? In which case, this section must be torturous for you.

19. Urban Legend.

I know you come from New Jersey and think that Bruce Springsteen is your finest urban legend. He isn’t. He’s real. Urban legends are lovely stories told by drunken people playing poker. Stories that are entirely false. Bruce Springsteen is real. I’ve seen him in concert. Chris Christie has written him fan mail. Chris Christie is also real.

THE TYPEFACE THAT ATE THE WORLD

SOMETIMES BOLD AND ALWAYS A LITTLE GROTESQUE

The Typeface

EVGENY MOROZOV CATCHES UP WITH “HELVETICA”, A DOCUMENTARY FILM ABOUT THE HISTORY OF THE NEAR-UBIQUITOUS TYPEFACE, AND FINDS IT TO BE A PERSUASIVE STORY IN MINIATURE ABOUT THE GLOBALISATION OF VISUAL CULTURE …

 

A new school of globalisation studies based on micro-views, rather than macro ones, is yielding beguiling pictures of prosaic subjects. Pietra Rivoli explored wonderfully the global life of a simple product in “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy“. Marc Levinson took on the story of the container in “The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger“. Tom Standage of The Economist produced “A History of the World in Six Glasses“, with drinks at its centre.

Gary Hustwit, a producer of documentaries and a former executive at Salon, has made his first foray into directing by a similar route–picking a narrow subject area and using it to illustrate broader truths. The narrow focus of his efforts is the typeface, Helvetica, from which his film takes its name. The broader subject of “Helvetica” is the globalisation of visual culture. Today Helvetica the typeface is everywhere: metro signs, airline logos, street ads, T-shirts, office software. “Helvetica” the film is doing pretty well too. Having premiered at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, it is on course to become one of the year’s top-grossing independent documentaries.

“Helvetica” is built around conversations between Hustwit and prominent figures in the world of type design: Erik Spiekermann, Matthew Carter, Massimo Vignelli, Wim Crouwel, Hermann Zapf, Neville Brody, Stefan Sagmeister, Michael Bierut, David Carson, Paula Scher, Jonathan Hoefler, and many others.

These conversations take Hustwit beyond the world of visual culture into many tangential areas. “Helvetica” ties together psychology and advertising, marketing and anthropology, cultural and urban studies.

Hustwit’s film marks the year of Helvetica’s 50th anniversary (MOMA has aHelvetica-dedicated exhibition for the occasion). Who could have thought that when Max Miedenger, a relatively unknown Swiss designer, created Helvetica in 1957 using Akzidenz Grotesk as a model, this would become the typeface of record for corporations and governments?

In the next few years Helvetica (known first as Neue Haas Grotesk) was used primarily by a coterie of Swiss designers and their clients. By the 1960s it had acquired its new name (a play on the Latin name for Switzerland, Helvetia) and attracted admirers by virtue of its clean, no-nonsense look.

Hustwit finds that Helvetica has its haters as well as its fans. Its use by governments and corporations has turned it into a target for conspiracy theorists holding it to account for all the pro-establishment messages it has carried. Paula Scher, a New York graphic designer and artist interviewed for the film, recalls how, back in the 1960s, Helvetica became a symbol of the Vietnam War, because official communication relied so heavily on the type.

One of the more plusible adjectives for describing Helvetica to a stranger would be “neutral”. If type is really the perfume of the city–a conceit of the film–then Helvetica has a scent that doesn’t smell. In this respect, “Helvetica” touches upon Foucaultian themes of control and power–threads that may acquire a new life in the subtle context of type design, particularly in the urban environment. Helvetica’s ubiquity on official documents and signs has come to embody a certain sense of stability and confidence in tomorrow. Planes won’t crash, houses won’t be robbed, nothing bad will happen: these are the indirect messages sent out by Helvetica type in the streets or in the office.

Hustwit’s film insists on the ethical responsibilities of designers towards society at large. The decisions they make may incline the people around them to be more complicit or more rebellious, to strive for more diversity or for more neutrality and homogeneity. A typical Western consumer sees more than 3,000 corporate messages per day.

But “Helvetica” is not only about the history and culture of a typeface; it’s also a film about their future. Perhaps the most important non-Helvetica issue addressed in the movie is what kind of impact technology and the Internet will have on the industry. The trade of type design is not immune to the invasion by amateurs, and, as in almost any other industry, the professionals disagree whether this is a good or a bad thing.

As some of the designers interviewed in “Helvetica” acknowledge, there has hardly been time in human history where young designers had more creative ideas and cheap technology available to them. The MySpace generation has grown up editing the graphics and the type in online user profiles. It may yet exhibit a totally different set of attitudes to the cultural monopoly of the Helvetica type.

On a pure visual level, “Helvetica” is a treat as well. It’s not one of those documentaries where you need a day’s supply of coffee to stay awake through a 90-minute stream of dense punditry. Nor is it another “Sicko”: you will not find provocative or shocking scenes. Instead Hustwit treats the audience to an eclectic mix of urban shots and interviews and spiced with charming music. “Helvetica” is what metrosexuals watch to get educated. If a documentary can count as “glossy”, then “Helvetica” is coated to perfection.

In A Digital Chapter, Paper Notebooks Are As Relevant As Ever

Paper can make the abstract tangible in a way that digital devices don't.

Paper can make the abstract tangible in a way that digital devices don’t.

Alejandro Escamilla/Unsplash

I confess. I’m a notebook nut. I own dozens and dozens of them. Everything from cheap reporter’s notebooks to hand-crafted Italian leather beauties.

I wondered: Am I an analog dinosaur, or are there others out there like me?

The first stop in my investigation was, frankly, discouraging.

At first glance, a Starbucks on the campus of George Washington University points to the dinosaur conclusion. So plentiful are the laptops and tablets that they outnumber the double-mocha-half-caf-triple-shot-Frappuccinos.

But when I look more closely, I spot plenty of paper here as well.

Evan DeFransciso, a 20-year-old student, says he makes a clear demarcation: digital for schoolwork and paper for “my creative writing … short stories, poems, personal thoughts.”

“The stuff that really matters goes onto the paper,” he says.

Not just any paper. He uses a small black notebook with an elastic band and a storied past. Picasso and Hemingway used an early version of the Moleskine, and now you can too.

The Italian company that makes Moleskines — all 500 versions — is red hot, consistently recording double digit sales growth.

Moleskine notebooks have grown in popularity.

Moleskine notebooks have grown in popularity.

Ariel Zambelich/NPR

Oddly enough, the analog company’s success has grown in tandem with the digital revolution. In fact, when conducting market research, the company detected something even more perplexing: a direct correlation between sales of its little black notebooks and proximity to an Apple store.

That led Moleskine CEO Arrigo Berni to conclude that his customers are “not people who are clinging to paper with a nostalgic feeling, but rather people that have both digital and analog as part of their lives.”

Yes, he says, we live in an increasingly digital world, but we “still have a need for physical experience, for emotional experiences that digital devices and technology” don’t always provide.

Besides, he adds, for so-called digital natives, iPhones and other high-tech gadgets are commonplace. Paper is the curiosity.

Consider the case of Angelia Trinidad, recent college graduate and self-proclaimed gadget freak.

Not that long ago, she found herself adrift, professionally and emotionally, so she sought out a planner, a paper planner. None felt quite right so she designed her own.

Smelling a business opportunity, she launched a Kickstarter campaign. She was aiming for $10,000. She raised more than half a million.

“We went viral for a whole week, and it was insane,” she says.

Friends urged her to launch a digital version of her planner, but she resisted.

“I put my foot down,” Trinidad says. “I said ‘no apps.’ ”

She has nothing against apps — her smart phone is chockablock with them — but she finds paper more intimate.

“It’s this thing that is so intuitive. It’s between you and paper and a pen. It’s kind of meditative,” she says. “When I’m on the phone, it’s never meditative. It’s always task-y.”

Paper, Trinidad says, makes the abstract tangible, in a way that digital devices don’t.

“I feel there’s a huge need for paper in this increasingly digital world,” she adds. “I look at my planner and I think of it as my second brain. I look back at something on there and it’s like, ‘Oh, I wrote that.’ ”

I know what she means. As a writer, no work feels complete until I hit the print button and it’s on paper. Maybe, though, Angelia and I are both dinosaurs, albeit from different generations.

But some recent research suggests otherwise. Pam Mueller was a teaching assistant for an introductory psychology class at UCLA. One day, she forgot to bring her laptop to class.

“So I took notes, you know, the old-fashioned way, the way I did in college — pen and paper,” she explains. “I thought I got so much more out of the lecture that day.”

She mentioned this to her professor, Daniel Oppenheimer. It turns out that he had asimilar experience in a faculty meeting. He was dutifully taking notes on his laptop but realized he had no idea what people were saying.

Oppenheimer and Mueller wondered if there was something about paper and the act of writing that explained this phenomenon, so they conducted an experiment.

They asked about 50 students to attend a lecture. Half took notes on laptops and half with pen and paper. Both groups were then given a comprehension test.

It wasn’t even close. The students who used paperscored significantly higher than those who used laptops.

Mueller attributes this unexpected finding — published in the journal, Psychological Science — to the fact that the “analog” note takers were forced to synthesize rather than merely transcribe. It’s a phenomenon known as “desirable difficulty.”

“Desirable difficulty is some small roadblock that is in your path that actually improves your understanding of a topic,” she explains.

This is, admittedly, a hard sell on college campuses, she concedes.

“Students find it hard to believe that more content isn’t better,” she adds, “that they aren’t going to just get it all down now and study it later.”

Mueller, though, has taken her research findings to heart. Whenever she needs to truly grasp a subject, she ditches the laptop and takes notes with old-fashioned pen and paper.

Temples of literature: writers’ houses – in pictures

From the abbey where Byron partied to the house where Agatha Christie tested out her whodunnits, Nick Channer tells the inside story of the homes behind some of the great works of English literature

 by Nick Channer

%d bloggers like this: