Modern communication technologies are revolutionising the way we communicate. Emails and Short Message Service (SMS) are quick and convenient, but a new language is evolving around them which is changing the way we express ourselves and communicate. For this month’s article, Shahrezad Samiuddin compiled various opinions on what has come to be known as ‘textese’.

For this month’s Ilm o Amal, TRC conducted a survey on people’s opinion on the use of textese. We asked respondents the following question: ‘What do you think is the impact (if any) of the use of abbreviated spellings such as u (for you), b4 (for before), g8 (for great), lol (for laughing out loud) and wot (for what) while texting and chatting? Do you approve of such spellings? Why or why not?’

We got an interesting set of answers from a varied group of respondents. As expected there were some strong opinions, both dismissive and supportive, which we have compiled. Read on.

“I think it’s become a bit of a necessity to use abbreviations since we now text so much. Although I personally think it strange to use sms lingo, I do find I’m using ‘u’ and ‘ur’ instead of ‘you’ and ‘your’ when texting. Things like ‘lol’ and ‘rofl’ and ‘lmao’ are more difficult to understand though because they seem to have been coined by another generation and I would never find myself using ‘lol’ in any context. What’s more interesting to me is the use of smiley faces. They seem to be replacing articulate sentences and sometimes I wonder what we did before they were invented. New skills and ways of communicating are okay as long as we’re still reading and writing in the old fashioned way and not constantly communicating!”
Nimra Bucha, Actor

“Well, I would say no to texting with abbreviations, even though it is easy and convenient for us to use them to make texting faster. I think it is okay for adults to use these, as we can’t forget our spellings because we learnt them a long time ago when such distractions had not been invented. However, children and teenagers use these everyday and start using them from a very young age which influences their spellings and some even start using abbreviations in their verbal conversations, My own daughter for example says ‘lol’ every time she hears something funny, instead of simply laughing. So abbreviations may be useful and convenient for texting, but if they start influencing your verbal conversations, that does not seem like a good impact on our lives.”
Nageen Ahmad, Remedial Tutor

“I think that abbreviated spelling should be discouraged, especially among students. Although abbreviated words have been created for two reasons: to save time and money on smses, it has discouraged students from learning proper English. I often miss the message completely in between the short words.

I am working with an NGO, where we receive different applications from students, and it is very shocking to see the inclusion of abbreviated words, which has become their habit.

I feel this should be discouraged in school and colleges, where it is used to take notes. Many are also using Roman Urdu, which is a very bad habit.”
Parveen Akhtar, The Theosophical Society

“Your writing shows a lot about who you are, your choice of words, sentence construction, spellings and the use of correct writing form. Distorting spelling and abbreviations is really the ‘in’ thing these days especially in the younger generation: but to my mind, it’s a reflection of a flippant attitude. A good report, presentation or CV speaks volumes about who you are, and spellings are a critical part of it. When people become used to writing in short form, they may do so in documents or letters where it would be inappropriate to do so. So my answer is no, I don’t approve of such spellings.”
Sarah Beg, Banker

“Although I use them myself, I don’t approve of them. In fact I am cutting down on their usage. I don’t approve, it is eating into human expression which has become totally fake and meaningless.”
Irfan Aamir, Communication Consultant

“The impact of these abbreviations is greater on the younger lot, who text message so much. For them it’s a kind of shorthand writing where they express more within a few words and also save credit on their cell phones. It is definitely affecting correct spellings of words and grammar skills of both the reader and the writer. Since these abbreviations have become more frequent, real spellings are forgotten. As these abbreviations take a stronger hold, people forget the use of actual spellings and correct grammar.

I feel that such abbreviations are entertaining too, as text messages often reflect the creativity of the writer. This may be a reason for the widespread use of this form of writing, but the impact is negative. As a teacher I have personally noticed students using abbreviations, e.g. ‘u’ for ‘you’ in their written work.

While text messaging people tend to accept such spellings, maybe because they know that it’s going to get deleted soon, but if such spellings are used on paper then it looks really bad and does not leave a positive impact of the writer. I don’t know if we can really stop it because sometimes quick messaging is also required.”
Mahjabeen Gul, Academic Coordinator, Classes 4-8

“I can live with abbreviations when used in places where time and space is of essence e.g. for text messages. Unfortunately, their usage seems to have seeped into other forms of communication as well. I have read client’s briefs where such abbreviations were used in cover notes for job applications. For me, this spells (pun intended) pure laziness. Language is a wonderful tool of communication; it must and should evolve and speed of communication may require some shortcuts. But ultimately, in my opinion, such abbreviations dilute the depth and impact of what you say.”
Shagufta Naaz, Senior Sub-Editor, Dawn

“Yes I think the usage of shortcuts / abb is not correct in our daily life as then it becomes our habit while writing a business letter or in our daily office routine work etc. We make the same shortcut mistake but somehow in emergency or to save time I think to some extent we can use the abbreviations or shortcuts especially in msgs. While using the short form of letters it really spoils the complete conversation coz sometimes it is difficult to understand the shortcuts.”
Farida Hasan, Pre-primary School Head

“It’s difficult to know what to make of the impact unless and until there is direct evidence that sms language is having an effect on written English or otherwise. I don’t like it myself but that is my personal opinion; it is a result of people generally having less time, attention and patience for things in general which isn’t a great development, but that is the way of the modern world.“
Osman Samiuddin, Sports Writer, The National

“I guess, for chatting the use of textese is okay but not for formal / professional communication. This style of writing may have a negative impact in future; people might forget correct spellings. It would be disastrous if these abbreviated spellings are included in the dictionary.”
Sarah Haris, Founder, Readers’ Avenue

“Personally I do not approve it. I feel it has decreased the importance of using ‘correct spellings’. It creates an informal and casual attitude. From the school’s perspective I have observed adults and children using abbreviated spellings in their written work. Although I do not believe in penalizing children for incorrect spellings or holding any kind of spelling competitions, but I do feel that the use of correct spellings should be encouraged and right exposure should be given to children.”
Madiha Khan, Primary School Academic Coordinator

“I’m comfortable with abbreviations such as ‘lol’ etc but not with distortions such as ‘wot’, ‘gr8’ and others — I feel that the latter promote laziness, and threaten to become the norm for the younger generation similar to the impact spellings in comic books had on children. Also, issues such as dyslexia can intensify with the balancing act between ‘trending’ shortcuts and the real thing.”
Reema Abbasi, Senior Journalist and Manager, Aman ki Asha, Jang Group of Newspapers

“For me there is no right or wrong about using sms language, however there is a place and time for everything. It is definitely effective and serves the purpose of quick messaging. However as long philosophical discussions are not practical or feasible for using for sms, vice versa short forms are not acceptable in normal verbal/ written communication. One loses the essence of the discussion and shows a kind of frivolous and careless attitude. It is like a formal suit would look out of place on a beach and T-shirt and Bermuda shorts would look outrageous in an office environment. So though I’ m not a great fan of sms language, I still feel it’s okay as long its used b/w friends and in sms only. Another aspect is usage of correct language. It takes years to get a good command over language skills and a few smses to make a mess of it, so the key is in keeping a balance.”
Batul Shariff, Kindergarten Teacher

“I think the use of such language has impacted the grammar and spelling of people in general, and young people in particular, and has led to the use of incorrect spoken and written English among many people.

I do not approve of such spellings because of the negative impact they have on the way people communicate. As a result of ‘text slang’ even when people write emails, they do so without checking spellings and grammar; this trend is also seeping into the corporate world.” Mamun Adil, Assistant Manager, BD&R, Dawn

“I think the grammar and spellings used for text messages are okay for short messages to close acquaintances and friends, as it saves time and we have to work with miniature keyboards of mobile devices. One should just know that the recipient is aware of these abbreviations.”
Naufal Moosa, Banker

“I think this is still relatively new for our younger children, therefore the impact or let’s say the result of using such abbreviations could take its toll on them in a few years when they may spell ‘b4’ for ‘before’ and so on, even when they are expected to write the word in full.

Having said that, I strongly feel that those who have a culture of books around them – are into reading, and get regularly and frequently exposed to English literature, will not have a problem with their spellings and they will only use these abbreviations while texting or chatting, but not when they are not expected to use them.

Life is more hectic now, and we will continue to use newer technologies for communication and it is virtually impossible for people to adapt to those without adopting the shortcuts, the abbreviations, used universally.

I think innovations are great. There is nothing wrong in using this new (written) language as long as people don’t begin to verbalise ‘great’ as ‘g8’ (or ‘I am lol’).”
Rumana Husain, Author, Writer, Educator

“It has become a trend to use such abbreviated spellings for messaging and chatting. In this era of the electronic media, communication has become very easy and much faster. People find it very easy to use abbreviated spelling as it takes a shorter time to type and conveys messages. As far as texting and chatting is concerned, the use of such abbreviated spellings has made communication easy. People are not bothered about correct spelling.

I think there is no harm is using such abbreviations while chatting and texting, but for the formal writings rules of grammar and correct spelling should be used.
I, myself use these short forms and abbreviation to take notes and write messages quickly.”
Tabinda Jabeen, Teacher Trainer

“This issue has always irritated me, not only as a language teacher, but also as a person. I find it very difficult to read and have many times deleted unread messages because of this. This annoyance is no longer confined to teenagers, but sometimes I get texts comprising such language from people of my age group too. As a teacher it infuriates me when I find such words used in formal assignments. I strongly feel it not only destroys the spellings and word formation of young learners, but has snatched the beauty of the language.

You might feel I was a bit too harsh with my words, but it was the first time somebody had raised this issue. Before this many had made fun that I am supposed to change with times.”
Yasmeen Shahzad, Language Teacher, Upper Primary

“ This is no doubt a very interesting question, although I myself use these abbreviated spellings. It’s an innovation in language. Whether we should use it or not, again depends on whom we are addressing and what is the nature of the text. I don’t think it’s appropriate to use these abbreviated spellings in formal texts, but its ok in informal texts.”
Farva, Mother

“Although abbreviations speed up texting and chatting, at the same time they may not be easy to decipher by many (esp my age group). For youngsters it may develop laziness, non- seriousness and hurriedness in their personalities. Like one is supposed to read classics and avoid Mills and Boon and Sweet Valley type stories when in their teens …”
Hina Murtaza, Freelance Marketing Research Consultant

“Abbreviated spellings are now a standard for communicating informally – be it through SMS, chat or even taking down notes (for those who have not come across shorthand).

I personally feel it can be applied only to informal writing and informal means of communication. For any kind of formal correspondence or academic and literary writings, formal and correct spellings need to be stressed upon.

If this is not communicated to children and if professionals of different fields do not practice this, then the English language as we know it today, may slowly evolve into something new or die a death like the Shakespearean language.

At this point I don’t know how deep an impact it could have on the evolution of language, but I’m not ready to take that risk right now.”
Uzma Rauf, Teacher Trainer

More Views from Teachers

“It has not only become common in chatting or texting but I have observed a number of people using these abbreviations during conversations like ‘omg’ (oh my god), ‘hru’ (how are you), ‘tab’ (take a break)”

“I personally loath texting with abbreviations. Seems like making fun of the ‘English language’. I’m against it … although I know it saves time. If one can’t text properly it is better to make a call.”
Nida Aftab

“This question is a huge point of concern for parents. I feel if ‘u’ or ‘g8’ serves the purpose and saves time then there is no harm in using these abbreviated sps. As far as rules of grammar and spellings are concerned, the world is changing and so r the rules and spellings. Today we know about words like ‘thy’, ‘thou’ which we don’t use anymore, our future generation will also have a list of obsolete words/spellings. Plus, learning spellings is one difficult task. There’s a lot more that can be done in the time that we can save from learning the correct spellings. I feel the world is tech-savvy now. Every profession uses a computer for their work and the spell-check option is a lifesaver in such a situation. So yes, I am a supporter of inventive spellings and time saving abbreviations :)” 
Mahvash Sarfaraz

” I had a word with around ten friends and they were very appreciative of the short hand in text messaging and chatting. They said it happened to save time and space. Plus they said it made more sense than the original spellings. Many had the opinion that since spellings are now taught phonetically, that children respond in the following way: if one says the word ‘what’ to a child and asks him/her to write it down they generally write it as ‘wot’ because that is how they hear it. 

According to me proper spellings are a formal presentation. With friends it feels fine to use the short hand, but when talking to a person with whom one does not share a friendly level or one who needs to be shown respect, using such shorthand seems inappropriate.

I feel if we use the abbreviated spellings then written English will lose its beauty. It will be more slang. And language, be it written or spoken, is a beautiful way to express oneself and using slang will kill the charm of it. By slang I don’t mean bad words but to abbreviated spellings.
I still feel ‘I love you’ has a deeper meaning and beauty when written like it should be rather then as ‘i luv u’.”

A great deal of communication on the internet consists of people typing messages to one another – texting, email, as well as Facebook, use net article intent messaging, chat-rooms, discussion groups and so on. We also encounter a lot of slang, much of which is created by young people, who have always felt the need to communicate differently from their parents.

In my opinion it is good to use abbreviations in chatting on the net or on the mobile because it is easy to chat with anybody whether you know English language properly or not. We can convey our messages easily, so it is helpful to everybody. Abbreviation saves time and money also, but abbreviations should only be used for chatting and not in exam papers. As Shakespeare said, ‘Nothing is good or bad, but thinking makes it so.’
Nafeesa Shahid

Whether we loathe it or love it, textese is around at least for the time being. Every generation comes up with its own set of special words and language. And as the varied opinions given above show, there are strong supporters of the timesaving and convenience offered by textese and equally strong opponents of this ‘destruction’ of the language. Supporters of textese offer convenience and the ‘logic’ of the spellings as strong arguments in favour of it. Opponents believe that the beauty of the English language is lost and that is we don’t stop it now, the day is not far when textese will become the norm in the assignments and test papers that teachers will receive. In fact some claim they have come across such instances already and cringed inwardly.

So what is your stance on ‘textese’? Do you think it is a threat to the English language? Do you find it troubling when you come across textese in an exam paper or in a formal presentation? Or is this the next stage in the normal evolution of the language? Do you think it is a trend or is it here to stay? Or do you have a completely different take on it? We would love to hear your opinion, so please do write in and let us know your stance. Our email address is: [email protected]

September 2012