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I am sure that I am treading on eggshells here as this is a matter of opinion, but please do read on.

I absolutely resent when people use incorrect spelling for 90% of their words, on purpose. My younger sister, who is a teenager now, has been dragged into this strange world of "text spelling" / "short spelling" or whatever it is.

This is just one of her written sentences:

i do agree wid dis..coz evn i hav xperienced !! u will defnetly c d change

It is probably acceptable when you're typing on your phone where it is inconvenient or if you're typing to save the words (texting) but she does this pretty much everywhere and I'd like her to get back to using her regular language.

When I had a quick chat about this with her, she thinks that it's "cool" to write like that, and that google+ / facebook is not an exam so she doesn't have to stick to a format of writing. I didn't want to argue about it because if I do, it would only worsen the situation and she'd probably avoid it when I'm around. Probably.

I think that this way of speaking could seriously harm your real language skills (English is not our first language, but we literally use it everywhere) I have friends who've gone on from, "it's only messenger!" to, "Oh snap, I just mailed my potential employer with my chat language" (I am not even making that up)

Instead of just telling her what to do, I'd like her to understand why she should avoid writing like that. How can I get her to stop writing this way?

ps: I tried looking up but no one seems to have an opinion on this matter.. may be I am taking it too seriously?!

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I had a similar experience with my mother, who believed that punctuation is completely optional in informal mediums. I am a web developer; she needed a website. I told her I'll build her a website (for free) only if she starts using punctuation correctly on Facebook (which she often uses to promote her business). Since I laid out my terms she's started using punctuation properly and will be getting her free website soon. –  David Murdoch Mar 4 '13 at 21:52
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6 Answers 6

up vote 8 down vote accepted

I'll start off by saying that there is a time and place for text shortcuts like the ones you described. Where, exactly, the time and place for those shortcuts are is subject to debate.

In my opinion, the appropriate time and place for this is either in real-time chat, where taking the time to ensure proper spelling, punctuation and grammar (SPaG) can disrupt the "flow" of the conversation(s), when using a restrictive input device (such as a cell phone keyboard, or a virtual keyboard accessed by mouse or other movement controller), or when there is a restriction on the number of characters that can be entered (such as Twitter.com or the comment system here).

I've encountered plenty of people, though, who feel that there's absolutely nothing wrong with using shortcuts like this on any "informal" typed medium.

Personally, I despise seeing stuff like this on forums, emails, or even social media. I think it is lazy and disrespectful of your audience, unless you are very familiar with the audience and know that they won't mind. But that's just me; many other people are more tolerant of this, and I feel like the proportion who don't mind such a style increases daily.

Now, to get to your question: what can you do about it? Unfortunately, as a sibling, there probably is very little you can do.

As Valkyrie mentioned, proofreading is your sister's friend. You can remind her to double- or triple-check any homework assignment, resume, or other formal document you know she may be working on.

Ultimately, the primary responsibility for your sister knowing how to write appropriately lies with her teachers, and herself. If she's doing her homework assignments, hopefully either she's not using shortcuts like this, or her teachers are marking her down. If neither of these are the case, you may want to ask your parents if they'd consider bringing this to the Parent Teacher Association, or other valid forum, since teachers absolutely should be enforcing proper English on assignments.

The only other thing I think that is really an option for you is ignoring anything she writes using shortcuts. That most definitely includes emails, text messages, or other communications directed at you. Just explain to her that you find it hard to read that style of writing, and ask that out of courtesy, you'd like her to use normal English in anything directed at you, so you don't have to struggle to figure out what she means.

Then if she texts you with "if u c ne $ in d car plz brng it 2 me", you can ignore it, and she doesn't get what she wants.

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+1 for ignoring anything she writes using shortcuts. I agree that using shortcuts in general correspondence is rude. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Feb 5 '13 at 16:07
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Great use of "natural consequences." –  balanced mama Feb 5 '13 at 16:11
    
Thank you. I'll try to follow this advice. –  iamserious Feb 7 '13 at 18:03
    
@TorbenGundtofte-Bruun - I disagree. Ignoring someone (especially a girl) is not the right way to send a message across. It's the most obvious way men send messages across - when something doesn't work men either ignore it or repair it. However, women are not men. Ignoring women sends the message I don't care about you, not the message I don't like the way you write. If you want to send a message then be direct. Be clear. Ignoring a person is just too vague. Read my answer for more details: parenting.stackexchange.com/a/7473/3917 –  Aadit M Shah Feb 15 '13 at 10:46
    
@AaditMShah you make a great point, but if the ignoring has been prefaced with a conversation stating, "I don't understand them" or, "I don't have time to translate" it isn't really the same thing as just pure ignoring. programming a pre-done text response like, "try again in English Please." would do the same thing Beofett is suggesting, without that total "ignoring" feel to it. –  balanced mama Nov 30 '13 at 15:29
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Is chatspeak acceptable? Sure, it can be. Is it wise to use? Almost definitely not.

Here is why.

Language isn't just how we communicate, it's how we think. Imagine a chef who can only describe food as "gross" or "awesome." The chef won't just be poorly respected in communication, he is going to be held back at a level of mediocrity because he lacks the vocabulary to even think about what makes a particular dish desirable.

If you lack the ability to communicate with precision, you lose access to all types of thinking that require it.

I understand the sentiment that it's just informal communication and isn't that important, but I think the point is still valid. Are you able to make a cogent and compelling argument in written form, or do you end every disagreement with o wel thatz jus my opinion? Is your command of language sufficient to warrant peoples' respect of you? Are you able to tell what types of words have rhetorical effects? Advertisers depend on the idea that you can't.

Finally, the main justification for it is that it's arguably easier to type, but this isn't a valid reason. Typing has been here and will be here for a long time and it's a skill that everyone needs to possess. With practice, you should be able to type about as quickly as you can think.

The good news is that she'll hopefully grow out of it, but the sooner the better.

If I had any advice for what you can actually do about it, just write to her more often, and ask her things that require depth of thought. Prompt her to communicate with you on a level that can't be fully expressed without precision. It's a very non-confrontational way of encouraging to pursue thoughtful writing.

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I like the subversive approach (last paragraph) of putting her in a situation where her shortcuts don't work :-) –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Feb 15 '13 at 7:13
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I disagree with Valkyrie and Beofett. I am a programmer but I abhor reading articles written in l33t. Even personal ones. If you dig up the history of l33t you'll learn that it's a degradation of another form of writing in the earlier days of computers when 8-bit ASCII glyphs were used as a decorative set of characters as an alternative to the normal Latin alphabet.

This was alright because you could still read sentences clearly. For example a simple interrogative like How are you doing today? might be written as Hôw ärè ÿøü ðõîñg †°ðåý?. It's legible (albeit a little difficult to read). However l33t is extremely illegible as there's no one-to-one mapping between characters (e.g. H\/\/ r yu duin 2dae?).

I'm going off topic. The point is that a proofreader is not helpful in this case. It'll correct your mistakes for you, but it won't help you learn proper grammar. You learn by making mistakes. If you give your sister a proofreader then considering she does use it (which she may simple refuse to do --- it's not "cool" in her own words), at best it'll only make her dependent on the proofreaded to write her own essays.

You don't want to make her sit down and try to explain why it's better to use proper grammar. That is lecturing, and lecturing is only effective when the audience is willing to learn (like in a Google Talk or an open seminar). It rarely ever works in classrooms and in adult--teen discussions.

What you want is to make a statement, and you should be very clear in the message you're trying to send across. You want to be as brief as possible, but you still want to make an impression. You don't want to lecture her on why not to do something. Instead you want to get a point across (in this case - don't use l33t - it's not cool). The why is for her to figure out on her own.

There are several ways to do this. Beofett got really close to finding this. He suggested that you simply ignore her when she sends you a message like if u c ne $ in d car plz brng it 2 me. That's a start, but I assure you it will not work.

If you ignore her then it'll only make her annoyed. Consider the following conversation:

Your sister: Did you find some money in the car?
You:         Yes.
Your sister: Thank you. Where is it?
You:         In the car.
Your sister: But I told you to bring it to me.
You:         I know.
Your sister: So why didn't you!
You:         Because I didn't like the text message you sent me.

See what you're doing here? You may think you're sending the message I didn't like the text message you sent me across to her, but she doesn't get that message. What she receives is the message My brother doesn't care about me.

Then she'll get annoyed and it'll turn into an argument. She might ask Why couldn't you just bring me the money?, and you might retort Why can't you just type proper English?; and instead of magically solving problems it'll just frustrate both you and her.

Ignoring a person is the worst way to send a message across. Especially if the person you're intending to send it to is a woman. Women only ignore others when they're cross with them, not when they're trying to be supportive or trying to help them. Don't ignore her messages.

Instead when she asks say something like this:

Your sister: Did you find some money in the car?
You:         Do you mean the $20 on the back seat?
Your sister: (happily) Yes, that.
You:         Oh, I'm so sorry - I used it to buy myself a McDonald's burger.
Your sister: What? But I sent you a message asking you to bring it to me.
You:         You did? I didn't really understand what you meant to say.
Your sister: Oh.
You:         Hey, I'm sorry. Here, you may take $20 from my wallet alright.

See, it's not that difficult. Here the message you're sending is pretty clear - don't use l33t to talk to me - I don't understand it. You didn't ignore her. You didn't fight. You got an excuse to eat a McDonald's burger, and she got her money.

That's still however just a part of the message you're trying to send to her. Do this regularly and she'll talk to you in proper English, but she'll still keep using l33t on Facebook and with her friends. The next step is to demonstrate to her that speaking in l33t is not cool.

What's the best way to do that? Interact with everyone around her in l33t. Initially this may seem counter productive but it'll work. Talk to her friends, your parents, her friends' parents, her teachers, etc. in l33t. Make it a habit. Eventually it'll pique her interest and she'll ask Why are you talking like that?. Then you may respond by saying Because it's cool.

In her mind she'll decide for herself that it's not cool to talk like that and eventually she'll grow out of it herself. It's important to let her grow on her own. Yes you can nurture her and you can make her aware of your opinions, but you can't force her to accept your point of view and expect her to change her behavior overnight.

Hope this helps. =)

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Hi Aadit, I do agree with most of your answer, but I think you've mistaken. @Beofett didn't really suggest that I ignore the message, but he actually suggested what you are trying to imply - to just pretend not to understand it so then my sister would see that I don't understand and stop using it with me.. At least, that's the message that I took away from his answer. –  iamserious Feb 15 '13 at 10:58
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@iamserious: It may. It may not. You'll know best. If it doesn't then try something else. I really doubt that the way you talk will annoy others. Just smile at people. =) 90% of a conversation is non-verbal anyway. Don't annoy anyone. Not your sister nor anyone else. Just try it out. You don't want to force her to stop writing the way she does. You just want to make her aware of how silly it is, without her knowing your intentions. What she takes from that is not your responsibility. Oh, and do stop talking like that after a while. You got your point across. BTW, I'm an Indian. Bad traffic no? –  Aadit M Shah Feb 15 '13 at 11:16
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haha, you don't say! I've already begun not responding to her, or asking her to clarify by saying, "what? I don't get it!" and she usually types it out correctly the second time around (it's getting better already) - but there are times when she just gives up as well so hopefully this will get somewhere! –  iamserious Feb 15 '13 at 11:27
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@iamserious - I'm glad for your sister and yourself. Say hi to her for me please. =) –  Aadit M Shah Feb 15 '13 at 11:31
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@Beofett - Ah. =) –  Aadit M Shah Feb 15 '13 at 15:09
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From experience I can tell you being a sister is different than being a parent. If you are worried about how others see her, have an honest, calm conversation explaining about how others see her is important. She can CHOOSE to listen or not (parent vs. sister). This short conversation lets her know you care about her but still respect her decisions.

You also need to set boundaries for the way you will allow her to treat you. If you don't like the texts, don't respond until she treats YOU with the respect you deserve and texts you like an adult. It doesn't have to be confrontational, just say something like "I couldn't read it so I didn't respond." or "I don't have time to translate each text you send".

It is a parents job to take everything too seriously, a sibling with the same attitude is RARELY taken in the same context.

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Thank you very much; this is similar to the top answer right now but I do get the idea! –  iamserious Feb 7 '13 at 17:49
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Have you considered that it is a part of her world, and the fact it annoys you probably makes it even more appealing to her.

I don't like it, but it is catching on with that age group.

The thing to remember is that language continually evolves- and that evolution is driven by younger generations. While we may not like it, the problem may be at our end. Perhaps the correct response is to just accept that she wants to use text speak.

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Thank you. This is a good answer too, I wish I could select two answers. –  iamserious Feb 7 '13 at 18:02
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You're taking this too seriously. I work in the tech industry and see new graduates come through who use l33tspeak personally but have no trouble using professional language in a professional setting. Certainly she's not using l33tspeak in her school work and papers, right?

As she progresses in her schooling and then career, it's very likely she'll be able to easily switch between 'regular' English and l33tspeak. Sure, there might be the occasional screw-up, but that can happen at any time, with any language, just by a second of inattention.

Anecdata: I use l33tspeak regularly in my personal communications, and never in my professional work (not even in the code). Never a screw-up; proofreading is your friend.

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Are you deliberately mistyping anecdote as anecdata? –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Feb 5 '13 at 16:09
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Nope; anecdata = anecdotal data :) –  Valkyrie Feb 5 '13 at 16:11
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