The Main Stream

May 30, 2011 11:20 AM

Spelling and grammar in the digital age

TUCSON - If you're a face book addict, a twitter junkie, or a frequent text message sender, you probably know some clever ways to condense your words. The problem is, we may be forgetting how to spell and punctuate properly!

Melanie Hounker, a student at the University of Arizona, says too much reliance on spell check and predictable text has left her with one big problem.

" I feel like I don't know how to spell anymore," she said.

Even a few years ago, dictionaries were our go to source when it came to spelling. Now, all you have to do is run spell-check.

"If something doesn't have spell check, I have to put it in a word document so that it can spell check it," Hounker continued.

Cell phones are only adding to the problem as well. T9, which is a feature on most phones, automatically predicts what you're writing. You just start typing and T9 will do the rest.

"I have the iphone so it like will pop up if I'm spelling it wrong and it will finish it for me." Samantha Cummings, another student, said.

When it comes to social media, the problem only gets worse. Facebook allows you to post updates up to 420 characters, while twitter only allows 140. If you go over, twitter tells you to be more "clever."

Someone who sees the effects of this first hand is Associate Professor Carol Schwalbe, who teaches journalism at the University of Arizona.

"I think there's a bit of confusion because it' so accepted with social media that you can write in this conversational way, it doesn't matter if you're not spelling the words correctly but that's what's accepted, and then you come into the classroom and we have professional standards and we expect you to write with correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar," Schwalbe said.

Her best advice is to read as much as possible. However, she cautions that reading blogs may not be as helpful as reading published material, since they aren't held to the same professional standard.

"I tell the students it doesn't matter what you read, even if it's the back of the cereal box. Just keep reading, so long you know what's good writing and what's not good writing."

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