IM-speak in Web Blogs

I received an e-mail this morning from Brett Moller, a teacher in Australia (I assume from reference to OZ). Brett has a very impressive personal/professional web site () and has begun, what will doubtless become a valuable professional podcast, thanks in no small measure to Steve Dembo’s example and assistance. I just love listening to british accents.

Brett has just started a classroom blogging project, which I will share if I receive permission from Moller. But in his latest podcast, he expressed some concern about how students lapsed into IM-speak as they wrote their comments to their teacher’s blog articles. I’ve written about this before, I’m sure, but I thought I would just pass on to you my suggestions to Brett and the other teachers at Emmanuel College.

I just wanted to share my 2¢ worth on the issue of your students spelling and use of IM-speak in their blogs. My first thought is something that I often share in my public addresses and workshops, and that is the amazement that I feel at what these kids have done. We tend, especially as educators, to see all of the abbreviations as lapses in good writing. Instead we should treat it as a different style of writing. The point is that these kids, in less than one schooling generation have invented and implemented a new grammar that works much better for IM communication than standard grammar does. And what’s even better, is that they did this in collaboration. It wasn’t one personal or one standards board setting it all down, but these kids shaped it in mass. That is an astounding feat.

That said, I’m the last to believe that standard or formal writing should go away. I also think that it would be less useful to start assigning students to do all of their writing using an “academic style.” It sounds too much like an assignment. They love blogging because they’re communicating, not because it’s an assignment.

The criteria for how the students write should be the audience. For some assignments, students will be writing only to be read by other students. In these cases, I would suggest to students that they use IM-speak. For other blogging/writing assignments, structure the blogging topic as something that adults in the community or even abroad might read and respond to. For those assignments ask the students to describe how they should write for audiences other than other students. This should result in their writing in more formal styles.

That’s just my 2¢ worth.

Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.