I started texting five years ago so I could communicate with my then sixteen-year-old son. But with this new way of communicating came another language for me to learn. Texts like “LOL. IDK” baffled me, especially since I translated LOL to mean “lots of luck,” which made no sense whatsoever in our conversation, and I was clueless about IDK. Nowadays, I’m much more with it, but my texts are still grammatically correct and perfectly punctuated. No compound sentences without a comma for me.
But texting, no matter how well written, is not writing. Texting is the 21st century’s version of the Morse code, albeit with letters, intended to convey information as quickly and sometimes as secretly as possible. We have only 160 characters with which to communicate with our tech-savvy, faster-than-fast-paced younger generation, so some standard shorthand is necessary. And if we fail to learn it, failure to communicate with the younger generation follows. But texting is still not writing.
Writing is the longhand form of communication, where we must actually stop and think about what we’re thinking about, figure out what message we want to convey to others, and then undergo the arduous task of getting our point across in a coherent, concise way. This requires time and thought–and many more characters than 160.
The line between texting and writing has become blurred, with one being confused for the other especially among young people. Still, I think—at least I certainly hope—that we are light-years away from opening a book and reading, “‘TMI! PIR!’ my BFF said, LOL. ‘J/K.’” But given the warp speed with which technology advances—and with it our communication regresses—maybe that is not so far-fetched. OMG.
But until then, Merriam-Webster’s is the standard that all of us, young and old, abide by, and formulating well-thought-out sentences is still necessary for clear and effective communication with one another, especially in writing. And in that my old-school heart rests easy.