47 Texting Advances Literacy Skills

Kaitlyn Matta

According to many older adults, phone usage is the bane of the younger generation’s existence. Parents today love to blame any slight inconvenience their child faces on “that damn phone”. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that poor writing skills are often blamed on “that damn phone”. However, in reality, poor writing skills are unrelated to phone usage. If an individual is assuming that phone usage is negatively impacting a person’s writing ability they are often thinking more specifically about texting as having that impact. There continues to be some speculation from young individuals as to why this is.

Texting takes skill, fluency, and an ability to be concise in writing. The ability to text and communicate messages digitally is not being considered for all that it is, can be, and can do. If texting is truly as damaging as it is sometimes made out to be, I question my own situation. I am by far the most avid texter out of everybody in my family. My parents appreciate my help when sending a text as they struggle but claim they simply do not like to text as much as they like to call. They also mention that it is easier when having a good amount of information to tell. Skills that may be lacking for them and for many people around their age, but not for the younger population. My family has declared me the best writer of the household and to that, I give notion to my texting abilities even if they were to disagree. My sister and brother come to me when they are in need of help to write a paper or type up an email. My sister always asks for my guidance when trying to create any kind of digital video or multimodal project. She takes advantage of my digital literacy which I propose has been greatly enhanced by texting for several years now.

We need to focus on the good of texting, especially in an era where technology is advancing quickly. Writing, for example, has already had a great shift from pen on paper to hands on a keyboard. Typing has proven to be a great advancement that has not negatively impacted whether or not individuals can write formally. Texting too will be another great advancement. In making this comment, Christopher Justice, an author in the Open Access Textbooks series who is knowledgeable on writing and digital technology, suggests that texting shouldn’t replace formal writing but it should complement it as existing writing skills are increased in new, complex manners. Texting is a valuable tool that utilizes the skills that individuals already possess, enhancing them through constant practice.

One area in which texting has largely pushed its growth is digital literacy. Digital literacy is becoming more important as individuals try to succeed in school, careers, or life in general. For example, teachers now must be able to adequately implement technology into their lessons as they build slideshows, create worksheets, find digital games for their students to play, and collect information. Teachers themselves are trying to build their student’s digital literacy in a classroom setting. Students are able to become more comfortable with technology considering they are surrounded by it in school and in their homes. Texting has become a part of many individuals’ lives on a daily basis and this includes school-age children who are now given phones at much younger ages than before. Texting is a formative part of building both their digital and more formal literacy skills.

The Link of Texting and Language Play

Texting appears to be no more than sending messages anywhere from a few words to sentences long in length back and forth. However, texting allows for much more than written words. The capabilities of texting have grown wild. Texting allows one to send images, gifs, videos, emojis, and stickers either to stand alone or to be used to enhance a message being sent. A text that someone is at the beach may feel instantly more personal to the receiver when an image is attached. In a series of messages, adding a gif with reference to a funny scene from a movie can make communicating digitally humorous, even more so than having an in-person conversation at times. Stickers like “bitmojis” can be used as a fun way to tell someone “Happy Birthday” because the sticker may have a look-alike of the sender throwing confetti in the air with a stack of presents next to them. These items that can be incorporated into text exemplify the understanding that texters have of language. One needs to hold knowledge of words and sentences already to be able to add attachments that are relevant, interesting, and purposeful. Literacy has evolved over the years because of tools such as these that can now be utilized in writing.

Digital spaces now allow for total creative freedom in writing and even encourage it. Graphic essays have become increasingly popular making use of both photos and written language at once. Motionpoems involve reading a poem as a video plays to act out or reveal the message. Literacy involves being able to communicate through the use of language and/or media in ways such as these. According to Zebroff and Kaufman, “Students who are texting are assumed to be more engaged with written language than they were before, using it in new, playful, and imaginative ways” (2017). Texting has opened the eyes of many young people. Reading and writing are no longer viewed as boring or mundane when students are doing these things at their own will, happily. In fact, young texters have so much to offer to the world of literacy because of the way they effortlessly incorporate multiple modalities into communication.

Literacy also involves thinking about the message one wants to communicate before delivering it. In a similar manner to writing a paper, texts are also thought out and planned. The time it takes to plan out a text can differ. If someone is arguing with another person over text it is normally beneficial for them to write out the text in their notes app first. This helps them to organize their thoughts and make sure they hit on all their points easily because they are able to see more of the message at once and go back to edit without lots of scrolling. Editing and revising are just as important components of text messaging as they are part of the formal writing process and these components take place constantly.  Christopher Justice himself writes, texting “allows ample opportunities to revise and organize one’s thoughts”. Texts get revised in every circumstance whether or not the message is lengthy. They are revised by the sender and sometimes this is noticed when the sender sends an additional text with the edit accompanied by an asterisk. Clearly, texting is not sloppy or careless.

Conciseness, Tone, and Communication in Texting

Texting has also helped advance individuals’ ability to be concise. While you can type messages that are paragraphs long, it is not common in most cases. Therefore, when writing text messages most people try to communicate their message in as few words as possible. This raises another concern to some individuals which is that texters rely too heavily on abbreviations. However, Christopher Justice proposes to “try abbreviating language when you don’t already know the correct spelling of a word or syntax”. It is basically impossible for someone to abbreviate a term they don’t fully understand which shows that texters have a complex, deep understanding of language as previously mentioned, and because of that this concern may be dispelled. Abbreviations are just another great addition to texters’ ability to be concise. Conciseness should be applauded especially by teachers who have long complained about “fluff” in writing. Fluff is essentially added words or sentences imputed into writing to reach a word count or a certain number of pages. Fluff usually serves no other purpose as the information added is not new or useful to the central theme of the paper. When it comes to writing a more formal paper for class, being concise is what texters know best so fluff is usually left out. Hitting on the most important messages and themes is easy and makes for strong papers because almost all the information included is relevant and necessary.

Texters have another great skill and that is being able to consider tone. Something lost in digital communication is the chance to hear the way somebody says something whether that be questionably, enthusiastically, or firmly. There are still ways to make up for this lack of being able to hear the way words are said. People use exclamation points, question marks, or periods. This is nothing new, writers have had to carefully make use of proper punctuation to display the message they have wanted to get out for a very long time. People who text practice choosing the proper punctuation to say what they mean all the time. They also consider the punctuation in the messages they are receiving. If a girl asks one of her friends if she wants to go to the store with her and her friend replies “Sure.” she may think her friend is not that interested in going. This may be for a couple of reasons, one of which being that if she were excited and happy to go she may have replied “Sure!” instead. The girl may also be considering the way that her friend has responded to her messages in the past. Texters tend to build an understanding of the way that people they text frequently communicate digitally. Therefore, if a person does not seem as enthusiastic as normal they will pick up on that. This ends up making people who text able to determine tone while reading easily. They come to understand the characters in a story quickly and pay lots of attention to the way punctuation is used. In Christopher Justice’s view, this means that texting is positively impacting a text writer’s rhetorical skills because of this ability to understand audience and tone. Rhetorical skills are essential to developing strong literacy and because texting makes utilizing these skills second nature there is further suggestion that texting does not, in fact, hurt literacy.

Texting allows texters to use what they know about language to communicate a message in a strong, clever way. The enjoyment that comes from developing texts gives hope for advanced literacy among the younger generation. People need to consider how texting could lessen the amount of illiteracy that exists because writing informally is more appealing to most individuals. Therefore, without texting individuals would write far less and only when absolutely necessary in many cases. Texting keeps this from occurring and texting should be seen for the good, a fascinating mechanism through which literacy is built upon.


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Good Ideas About Writing Copyright © 2021 by Kaitlyn Matta is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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