Re: 'Stereotype' thread - evolved.

Subject: Re: 'Stereotype' thread - evolved.
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 08 Nov 2000 10:55:17 -0800

John Posada wrote:
> For all intents and purposes, this generation is the first generation
> that is learning to write online. Not having kids, I don't know if
> what I'm seeing is typical of the group, yet when they need to, are
> able to compose sentences with nouns, verbs, and periods, or if this
> is going to become the standard way of communicating once they get
> into the workforce. If the later, what is this TW field going to
> evolve into?

The Internet is largely a phenomenon of the educated and
middle-classes. The price of software and hardware makes it
difficult for it to be anything else, and, historically, it is only
people with at least a smattering of education who are interested in
active communication, no matter what the medium. So, it is safe to
say that most teenagers on the Internet have some idea of
conventional English. However, slang and shorthand are trendy, so
naturally they're going to be used. You might think of them as a
mild form of rebellion.

As a former university instructor who taught more composition than I
care to remember, I'm not too concerned. Slang is ephemeral. The
best of slang will become an accepted part of the language and
enrich it; the rest simply disappears. It's all part of the
evolution of language, and we can't do much about it even if we want

Nor is a gap between casual and formal language that unusual. Those
of us born middle-class in the Sixties or Seventies might think so,
because we grew up in a casual era when the gap was small. But
that's a historical anomaly, not the norm. Anyone who grows up with
an awareness of this gap, as members of many sub-cultures have done,
have no trouble knowing which mode is appropriate for a certain

Interestingly enough, in my experience the teens least likely to use
slang or shorthand in e-mail are hardcore programmers in the free
software movement. These kids are doing serious work, and often
collaborating with people for whom English is a second language, so
effective writing is a necessity to them.

That's not to say that I think the general standard of literacy is
acceptable. I don't. But, as a writer and a former teacher, I expect
that my standards are much higher than average. On the whole, what
matters to me is that writing has become a meaningful and common
part of more people's lives. The ability to communicate (as well as
sort through information) can only help the kids. The fact that
they're gaining experience matters to me far more than their
spelling or choice of words.

Bruce Byfield, Outlaw Communications
Contributing Editor, Maximum Linux
604.421.7189 bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com

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