Posted in Rants on December 21st, 2009 by Ed

Someone who wanted to be one heartbeat away from the presidency – and who fully intends to run for the top spot directly in 2012 – wrote the following:

Arrogant&Naive2say man overpwers nature. … Earth saw clmate chnge4 ions;will cont 2 c chnges.R duty2responsbly devlop resorces4humankind/not pollute&destroy;but cant alter naturl chng

As you no doubt can guess, this message is from the Gov. Quitter's "Twitter" feed. Yes, Sarah Palin is stupid but this type of communication is all too common on Twitter (if you want to gouge your eyes out, try taking a glance at some famous athletes' Twitter posts – it's about what you'd expect, only 1000 times worse). And that is why Twitter is going to be the final nail in the coffin of whatever remains of our collective writing skills.

I have a 6 year-old cell phone. It's ancient by the standards of cell phone technology. I send text messages on a plain numeric keypad; no fancy QWERTY keyboard for me. And I never fail to take the time to write out each word and use punctuation. The marginal cost of doing so is about 20% of whatever time you'd spend writing unreadable gibberish that sounds like a hyperactive tween emailing her friends about Twilight. And for people who have newfangled phones with keyboards it can't take any additional effort at all to write like a literate English speaker. Argue all you want – there is no justification for this level of stupidity. Unless one's typing skills are 4 WPM, it simply does not take any more time to type "will continue to see changes" in place of "will cont 2 c chnges."

Look again at Palin's message. When did it become acceptable to communicate like this? What kind of idiot would make such a thing public? Maybe other public figures avoid being this blatantly retarded but it doesn't take much time in the Twitterverse to understand that "ur" is a perfectly acceptable substitute for "your," punctuation is optional and may be used at random, and numbers may substitute for words or portions thereof.

If you think this doesn't matter and I'm just being a crank, let's wait a few more years until we can see the results of long-term studies of the effects of text messaging among adolescents on their adult writing skills. We can barely write as it is, and now the world is being swept by a medium that encourages, if not openly demands, illiterate drivel as an acceptable substitute for English. I'm not the first person to point at technological developments and say "This is the harbinger of our doom! The end is nigh!" and the track record of people who so claim is not good. But the effect these new forms of communication are having on our ability to use the old ones correctly is real and significant.

Take a stand. Do your part, however small, to send the message (see what I did there?) that this kind of shit is not acceptable. Let your acquaintances know that typing something on a cell phone is not a blanket excuse to sound retarded. I don't care if you're texting, emailing, tweeting, blogging, writing a letter, or scratching an SOS into the side of a coconut shell, there. is. no. excuse. for talking like this. None. Our time is not so precious that the millisecond saved by replacing "for" with "4" can be justified. It takes just a few moments more to say something correctly than to say it incorrectly. And if something isn't worth a few seconds to say correctly I would question whether it is worth saying at all.