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I'll admit it right up front: I'm an old guy, and this is a "kids these days" rant. Pull up your pants, comb your hair, and for Pete's sake, learn to type! I'm referring to what is variously known as "txt lingo", "txt msg spk", or my own term: laziness.

Something you youngsters may not know: you didn't invent online shorthand. There were computers before the Internet, and online "chat" communities before there were web forums. That's right, my old CompuServe "CB" cronies and I invented "lol" and :) back when you were still playing Nintendo Gameboys.

Ok, enough of the "old curmudgeon" act. I want to make a serious case for proper punctuation, spelling, and grammar within professional forum postings. First let's examine some reasons why it's so prevalent.

When asked (read: "when I flamed her about it"), one forum member explained she "was in a hurry, needed an answer fast, and it was just faster to type".

Well, yes, it is faster, once you're used to it. Marginally. After all, it evolved in the chat rooms and bulletin boards, with sometimes dozens and even hundreds of people all talking at once, trying to get a reply in before the conversation scrolled away.

While it may be faster to type, is it faster to read? No. While the brain is very good at recognizing word shapes, it does take more concentrated effort to parse the title of this article than it would if I'd properly spelled-out the words.

If your goal is to get an answer fast, then you're shooting yourself in the foot by using "txt msg spk". It will take longer to read and understand, and will annoy a lot of the most qualified potential responders. You won't get faster or better answers, and in extreme cases, any answers at all.

Another reason: many can't type. Tough. Learn to type. You're using a computer, not a cell phone. I find it mind-boggling that someone who can't type is posting programming questions in a technical forum. As someone who has hired and trained many programmers, I can say that without exception the best programmers are excellent typists.

"I can't spell" or "English isn't my native language". I sympathize. But don't hide behind txt msg lingo. You'll cause more confusion, not less. In general, I think people are very tolerant of unintentional spelling and grammar errors. Do your best, and people will reward the effort.

My last argument for proper spelling, punctuation, and grammar: it shows respect for others. I'm aware that using the phrase "respect for others" turns me back into an old fart talking about the good old days, but so be it. If you want someone to take the time to respond to your question in an intelligent, thoughtful, and thorough manner, then you need be intelligent, thoughtful, and thorough in your postings. A message full of "smilies", abbreviations, unpunctuated sentence fragments, and vowel-denuded words gives the impression of a breathless, quickly dashed-off message from a lazy or ignorant person. It's not going to get you the kind of answers you presumably came to the forum to get.

That's my take on the situation. What's yours? I welcome your comments and counter-arguments.

And, btw, thx 4 rdg - cul8r!

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Last Post by Scottg1989
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You're pretty much 'spot on' which my own feeling about the [apparently] young internet community. Though, I've seen older and relatively matured people (over 50 years old) type like this too. I'm wondering if it in some way correlates with an Internet Maturity or some other factor rather than actual age.

However, every thought I have on the subject brings forth two or three more questions and other points to ponder.

I tend to feel it's also an issue with lack of respect (self and of others) and discipline. People today are taught, especially by our media, to be aggressive, violent, and even disrespectful to peers and especially older people.

When I read posts or emails and I see the type of shorthand you're describing, I often get a feeling the writer is unintelligent, lazy, and or undisciplined. Even if this is not the truth about the person typing the message, that's the general impression I get.

My ponderings, again, bring me back to this correlating to some time of 'internet maturity'. For someone like yourself (and myself), we're confident enough to maintain our ideals and social screeners/filters while communicating online. Someone very new to the internet and who does not necessarily have the desire or capacity to learn the concepts tend to hang out in online chat room communities. In those communities of like-minded and often immature or inexperienced computer users, behavior like what we’re describing appears to often flourish and take root.

I think the subject is very interesting and I’d love to read some of the sociological studies made on behavior online.

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Welcome to Daniweb; thanks for your thoughts on the subject. From what I've seen, it isn't an active disrespect. That is to say, it isn't an angst-induced act of rebellion to protest societal misconceptions about youth, technology, or some other nebulous cause. In most cases when I ask someone in a forum to use "real English" in future postings, they readily agree. They didn't even realize it was an issue. In other words, it isn't arrogance; it's ignorance.

I wonder too, about the underlying causes. James Gleick wrote a book in which he describes "hurry sickness". In the paperback edition of the book, entitled "Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything", the cover graphic displays "FSTR", and the author's name is rendered as "JMS GLCK". No coincidence, though he doesn't specifically discuss "txt spk" (also known as "l33t sp33k", derived from "elite speech", I'm told).

Is the phenomenon, then, a result of the increased pace of information flow? Are we so inundated with information, and a cultural imperative to do things FASTER, that we feel compelled to think and write in short, intense bursts? There's just not enough time to spell check, no time to even hit the "shift" key, and forget about re-reading and editing for clarity. We've no time for punctuation, either, except to make "smilies" - a condensation of a complete emotional state into two or three characters.

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I feel you're absolutely right about this behavior not being fueled by "active" disrespect, and I hoped I didn't come across as inferring that. I witnessed this behavior from a man over age 50. In fact he is 60 years old and a financial professional, formally educated. Just as in many things, I feel this behavior is a gray area with many different layers and avenues to uncover.
The book you recommended sounds very interesting and I think you are uncovering one layer of a possible cause of this behavior. That is definitely another aspect to ponder.

As you've also testified in your opening blog, I've witnessed individuals give the reasoning of "I didn't have a lot of time." or "I needed an answer right away." to explain the motive behind their method of communication (l33t sp33k). Personally, I don't think one way is quicker than the other, physically. However mentally, I feel the l33t sp33k code takes more work to "decode" than proper text and I consider it less effective as a way to adequately express one's opinion. Not only that, but it's not as universally accessible due to the decoding involved.

Thank you for the welcome!

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Seriously, which one's easier to read?

7h15 15 a m355ag3 1n 13375p33k.
This is a message that's not in "leetspeak".

Actually, the first one took longer to type...

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I think the the medium is the determining factor in whether abbreviations and other such things should be used. I spend (well used to spend) alot of time on IRC. On IRC it is normal to ignore grammar and punctuation. Acronyms are used to sometimes, but the punction is what is most often missing. I think this is reasonable, since you are trying to have a conversation with somebody, and want to keep it as much like a face to face conversation as possible. I believe this also applies to instant messaging.

Cell phone text messaging is another reasonable use of shorthand. It is easy to type on a keyboard (in fact, I type words faster than shorthand usually), but entering text on a cell phone key bad is a pain. Technologies like T9 Prediction are making it easier, but abbriviations can still be a big help. This is the place where I think the most abbriviation is acceptable.

Forums and usenet are different. As I said, I can actually type whole words faster than shorthand, and even when I can't type something quite as fast, the difference is so marginal that I might as well just type out the whole word. I am not as annoyed by shorthand as you are, but I do think it is silly.

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Well said Thomas. Personally I've resolved myself to not answer any question from people who type like that, instead mocking them for their laziness.

English isn't my first language either, in fact when first learning it I was extremely bad at it.
It took me 5 years to reach basic proficiency in reading and writing English, 5 more to become (nearly) fluent. But I made the effort because I realised that fluent communication in English is vital if you're to work efficiently in science and IT (IT was just about starting at the time to really take off and it wasn't my goal at all to get involved in it at any level other than as a consumer).

When you analyse the scrabbles of people prevailing themselves of such monstrosities you'll notice they save in general less than 10% on the number of keystrokes they need to type their message.

Acronyms and abbreviations generally recognised in the context they're used in (which means that they're most likely in a formal dictionary or are product or company names) are fine, anyone in the industry will know those if he has a reason to.

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Yes, mmiikkee i can imagine that the "leetspeak" way would take longer, but in your case thats was because it was so drastic. I think that typing with simple abbrevations such as 'u' for you is alot quick than typing you or any other word that can easily be shortened.

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Tay, a lot quicker? You save 2 characters in a single sentence of maybe 200 characters, when you can type at 60 strokes per minute (that's not all that fast) you're talking about saving 2 seconds off 200 seconds.
That's 1% of all non-whitespace characters, at 5 characters per word on average it's even less.

That's no savings at all, it's just stupidity, laziness, and trying to make yourself look 1337 k3w1 to your hax0r fr13ndz.

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Hello,

I am a firm believer in spelling, punctuation, and complete composure of thought. You can tell who has English as a Second Language (ESL), and I will work with those folks to help them along... they usually get the verb tenses wrong, or miss some words or get a wrong meaning.

But for the lazy folk who load it up with the omission of thought, I fly right by those posts, even if I know the answer. I feel that the requestor who used such goofy language fails to communicate his/her question effectively, thus why should I answer it.

Christian

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I hate it because it's hard for me to read. Now, I SUCK at all aspects of english and writing but at least I try.

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at the end of the day there's only so many characters that one can put into a mobile text message so i'll let people off there. on the other hand though trying to understand what people are writing when the write in text message fashion in an email or similar is just so annoying. i usually send a reply to those people asking for them to send the email back in plain english and with all the letters in the words.

people think its a guessing game or a school kids game like 'one,two miss a few 99,100' Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. if you're going to say something say it properly. after all when you talk to someone on the phone you dont say BTW or PPL you say By The Way or People.

Email as you would speak.. that what i say.

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Janine,

So, how do you feel about proper puncutation and capitalization?

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Alright all you Grammar Geeks- see what you think of this:
Short-hand typing and leet speak is roughly equivalent to slang speach in normal English speaking. It can be permissible, as long as it stays in the right context.

What is the right context? Well its NOT in business conversations, or serious web forumns in which proper communication is imperative to getting something important accomplished. Companies hire technical writers for a reason- its an important skill.

But lets give leet speak a break when it stays where it belongs- informal IM, text messaging to save characters, and my personal favorite: online gaming. (Granted, when I'm texting during gameplay, my college degree becomes virtually indiscernable!)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think- ( leetspeak : formal typing as slang : speach ) is a fair analogy. Just as some people can't speak properly when attempting to communicate formerly, also some people can't type properly in the same way, which is problematic, but by no means a new thing.

In short: wanna be informal? Go nutz! Need to get something important done? Be explicit and speak clearly.

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I more or less agree. However, I get a chuckle out of all the spelling and punctuation errors in your post! If you're arguing for formality in forum discussions, then pull the rafter from your eye, brother!

speach = speech
forumns = forums (or even more properly, "fora")
its = it's
lets = let's or "let us"
formerly = formally

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I have to admit that I use a few, mostly; IMO and TBH, but usually that's in reply to messages, than in my own requests, (not that there is any difference, but I would put more time into the latter). Whilst I wouldn't want my own post history to come into too much scrutiny, I think the real problem, is that such people, who consistently use 1337 speech, are unable to use proper grammar and spelling. I think that the population's average ability, (in many countries), of core skills such as Language and Maths, is on the decline.

So I don't think particular forumites are being lazy, or disrespectful, but merely articulating their posts in their usual manner.

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We all make conscious choices about how we represent ourselves to others. In a forum, no one sees if you have holes in the knees of your jeans, if you have curly hair, or if you drive a Jaguar. What readers see first are our keystrokes, or lack of them. And it projects an image...

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Unfortunately, since I am so used to using MSN Messenger, where it is accepted to be writing in shorthard, i use it in a lot of other things.

Once I used it a lot in one of my assignments (wasn't a good idea!)

It's just a habit i guess...

At least im not as bad as some people though...

somehow:

e = her
i = him
f8l = feel

??????

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