A place for txt spk in journalism

I posted here about the government report that finds young people leave school or college without being able to write in real English rather than SMS speak. As an old sub, of course, I find poor spelling and grammar are like nails down a blackboard to my delicate sensibilities. But maybe – just maybe – I’m wrong. 

Well, not wrong in thinking that the ability to parse a sentence is the cornerstone of civilisation, no. But clearly social networking technology is changing the way we communicate. Take the Twitter feed on this page. A lot of posts are slightly garbled – partly because they are written quickly, and partly because you have to pare down the character count to fit into Twitter’s SMS-style restrictions. 

Obviously, it helps not to leave out crucial words, so that you can actually understand what the post is trying to say (yes, you, Patrick Thornton, I’m talking about you). But the immediacy and brevity of text has its attractions. Instead of a worthy talk given to a politely highbrow audience in a lecture hall (think Economist op-ed piece), Twittering at its most lively feels more like an evening chatting in the pub – especially when the spelling and syntax goes.

You get the same effect in the Financial Times‘s Alphaville blog during its Markets Live feed. Set up as a live IM discussion, Markets Live is littered with spelling and grammatical errors, which reflects its immediacy and mostly adds to its charm. Would I like all my news to be delivered that way? Not so much. But in Alphaville’s case, market knowledge is clearly more important than the correct use of the semicolon.

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