E-mail slang 'ruining' children's grammar skills

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 September, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 September, 2000, 12:00am

CHILDREN'S enthusiasm for e-mail shorthand and slang is ruining grammar skills and threatens to consign the hand-written letter to history, a study suggests.

Researchers from the McCann-Erikson advertising agency, who interviewed more than 100 British five to 11-year-olds, concluded that children will regard traditional letter-writing as of no more use later in life than history lessons.

They say children are pioneering a new lexicon with abbreviations and symbols that adults struggle to understand.

A key development is so-called 'emoticons', simple images built up using keyboard symbols, such as :-( to represent a sad face, signifying sympathy, disappointment or bad news. The symbols evolved to keep down the cost of mobile phone text-messaging and e-mailing, speed up the response time and inject instant emotion.

The Times newspaper reported yesterday that teachers say the new shorthand style is making their job of improving literacy skills even harder.

Robin Lauffer, who led the research, said that the symbols used in text messages represented new ways of expressing emotions. 'We are witnessing a communications revolution which children have adapted to very quickly. Our language is changing in front of our eyes,' he said.

Other abbreviations cited in the study included lol (laughing out loud), oic (oh, I see), tah (take a hint) and btdt (been there, done that).