Saturday, April 30, 2011

"Oh My Goodness, I'm Laughing Out Loud!"

E. J. Copperman

I am, unquestionably, the world’s worst texter.

It’s not that I refuse to try new technology; I’m a fan. And I show up on Twitter (@ejcop) and Facebook (E.J. Copperman), and do all the other 21st Century things one is supposed to do. I’m not sitting in my 1970 Dodge Dart with the 8-Track player running and wondering why people don’t realize the true artistry of the Bay City Rollers. Not at all. I text, mostly with my daughter, but I do text.

Still, I refuse to conform in one way—I will not mangle the English language. I won’t write “ur” when I mean “you are.” I won’t fail to capitalize a name just because you have to press another key before the letter (don’t we do that on keyboards?). And no matter what the Oxford English Dictionary things, I will not, in any medium, un-ironically write “LOL” or “OMG.” I won’t.

I use words for a living. Words, to paraphrase the immortal Chico Esquela, have been very, very good to me. I think they hold power; they can amuse, uplift, persuade, convince, provoke or galvanize. Words can be weapons or roses; they can be tools or blunt instruments. They can inspire love or rouse the rabble. Words have recently brought change in Egypt and Tunisia. Words fill the Declaration of Independence, the Magna Carta and Mein Kampf.

To turn them into truncated versions of themselves merely to save a few keystrokes and work one’s thumbs less vigorously seems to high a price to pay. I won’t do it.

And so, my daughter (and to be fair anyone who texts with me) has a good chuckle at how long and formal my text messages are—she always says I sound like I’m writing a term paper. I always say she sounds like she’s writing in Estonian.

I teach a writing class at the college level. And every time a new term begins, I have to remind my students that what they will be writing for me will not be text messages. That means “your” and “you’re” have to be used correctly. Punctuation and capitalization will count. “It’s” will only have an apostrophe when contracting the words “it is.”

I’m sure they think I’m a dinosaur, a relic of a different age. Someone whose values are being displaced and obliterated by the onslaught of modern technology. Someone whose opinion on such matters is irrelevant and unimportant.

But then I get to grade them at the end of the term. Those who don’t use proper English in a writing course will see their grades suffer because their usual means of expression comes in 140 characters or less.

This is called “learning a lesson.”

I might be a lousy texter, but I am a really serious advocate for words.

E.J. Copperman is the author of AN UNINVITED GHOST, the second in the Haunted Guesthouse Mystery series from Berkley, which was published April 5. This tale of sand, surf, murder, reality TV and ghosts follows NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEED, which began the series last year.


Patty said...

I agree 100%. I also am a lousy "texter" because I text in full words and sentences. I even check, at least most of the time, that auto-correct hasn't changed my words to something that is totally different than what I meant.

Mike Dennis said...

Put me down as a full-word texter, EJ. I also capitalize my sentences, which is apparently a disappearing art.

The larger picture here is that the world, instead of opening itself up to those born after 1985, is closing in around them. They sit and text endlessly, stopping only to occasionally tweet about some crucial event. Even email and Facebook are losing ground with these people as being too boring and "taking too long".

And telephone? Forget about it!

They have grown up not knowing how to interact with others in any form outside these brief bursts of key-punching. This is why, when they get summer jobs, or their first jobs out of school, they have no clue as to the nature of customer service.

Today's Millennials may have the savvy to contact the world, but their true world exists only within the 10 or 12 inches between their eyes and their cellphones.

Okay, that's it. You may tell me, "u r xqzd."

E.J. Copperman said...

Oh, I don't think things are all THAT bleak. My kids text and can navigate a screen, but they interact with other people and they're pretty decent citizens. I don't despair. I just refuse to conform.

Anonymous said...

I wholeheartedly applaud you, EJ! While I'm somewhere in between your daughter & you (I do use LOL quite often when IM-ing someone), I cringe whenever I see someone writing with such laziness as to not capitalize any words, or even bother figuring out where to put a paragraph break.

I'd say there should be a more distinct line between shortcuts & outright laziness, but - as each individual would define those terms differently - that line can't help but be extremely blurry.

So, YAY you, for sticking to your guns. We need "dinosaurs" like you anyway, to show those who do care the proper way to do things.

Nice post!

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