Is Internet Slang Messing Up Our Writing Habits?


Texting and other digital technologies are upending the way we write. Some say that netspeak—meaning writing that uses shortcuts, little or no punctuation, and plenty of emojis—is turning us into a nation of illiterates. But, is that really the case? Not quite! Read on to discover how netspeak is redefining the written English language.


Admit it. When we text, we tap out the letters quickly and hit send without paying much attention to spelling. We also write in shorthand, or eliminate vowels, a style that’s “vry esy to lrn.”

Auto correct often comes to our rescue in these cases, but sometimes it comically misses the mark. So what? Everyone gets it, right? Just make sure those poor spelling habits don’t carry over to your formal or professional writing. Your client may not get the meaning behind that ridiculous auto-correct, and you really don’t want to have to explain yourself on that one.


Frequently, we write messages as one long thought—with no periods or capitalization to indicate the beginning of a new sentence. Sometimes, we interrupt our thoughts with exclamation points or gratuitous emojis to make sure the reader gets our meaning. Research suggests that some students raised on netspeak struggle with code-switching—or alternating between formal grammar and the unstructured syntax used online.

Formal writing is getting more conversational these days, especially when it comes to blogs and digital content (see our article on interrupting sentences for more on that!). So, maybe netspeakers won’t have to make too big of an adjustment when it comes to the formal written word.


TBH (“to be honest”), using abbreviations, acronyms, and numbers instead of words in text messages is another questionable writing habit that’s steadily creeping into academic and professional writing. NSFW is even in the dictionary now.AFAIK (“as far as I know”), it’s not okay 2 write let’s have a F2F 4 “face to-face” when you’re corresponding with business associates. And, when students use the letter u for the word you, teachers have every right to respond: R U 2 BZ 2 write? Or R U 2 lazy? Hieroglyphics, anyone?


On the internet, symbolism isn’t just a clever literary device. People now substitute emoticons and emojis for words. Maybe one day, there will even be an emoji dictionary . . . .

Using symbols in social-media messaging is a fast, easy, and fun way to communicate. Of course, discretion is nice: Using that smiley face with sunglasses could make you look too laid back or checked out when sending emails at work.


Who doesn’t love slang, those informal words and phrases that provide colorful and expressive ways to communicate. Folks often use slang in everyday speech, and since netspeak is a lot like spoken language, it’s natural for these words to seep into social-media messaging. Obviously, slang isn’t always appropriate in a formal context, so choose your words wisely, but more and more slang is making its way into our formal lexicon: binge-watch and manbunjust saying.

Stream of consciousness

Let’s face it: Social media can make us lazy thinkers. We often write in stream-of-consciousness, without organizing or editing our ideas.

Researchers are finding that students and employees absorb more information—and do more active thinking—when writing by hand rather than typing notes on the computer. But, at what cost to the environment?


In the digital age, it’s all too easy to plagiarize someone’s work or ideas. But, not all information in cyberspace is free for the taking. Let’s state the obvious: If you do borrow someone’s words, make sure it’s in quotation marks and that you cite the source!

Illegible scrawl

Even in the digital age, there are still times when you’ll need—or want—to handwrite something. A handwritten love letter won’t disappear in 10 seconds like a Snapchat. Handwritten thank-you notes are considered proper etiquette in many circles.

So, keep this old adage in mind: “if you don’t use it, you lose it.” It’s fast and easy to write with a computer keyboard. But, your handwriting will deteriorate if you don’t pick up a pen or pencil now and then to craft a personalized message. Give it a try!


Here’s the good news: If we pay attention to these habits, we can be bidialectal, or capable of using two dialects of the same language.

Texting is a different genre of writing than educational or professional writing, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Rather than destroying our old writing habits, social-media messaging can actually enrich it. Here’s to the ever-evolving English language.

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