New English: interactive (lol!)

A grammatically correct sentence; ‘No problem, I’ll see you later.’ turns into: ‘np cul8r’…

The internet has presented different audiences and purposes for writing. It is now so much more interactive than paper.

In the book Working with Texts, Adrian Beard (ed.) says that:


'Keyboard symbols, themselves the basis of new art forms in the shape of emoticons, can take their place alongside sound files, video clips and animations where text can sing, dance and play.'


Online writers can now boast of being textual designers, creating a vibrant assortment of bricolage (tinkering about / odd jobs). When writing a blog for instance, readers are able to click on various links or sections, able to view new pages (permeable writing). An online writer’s work may be read by a mass audience, different to writing a book intended for publishing.

When we read online, we don’t necessarily read in a linear fashion. Reading non-linear, is not reading a text from the top to the bottom of a page, but only sections of a page.


'An immediate consequence [of the World Wide Web] for English was the emergence of a new range of language varieties, as people learned to adapt their language to cope with the linguistic constraints and opportunities provided by the new technology.' – The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language


Online languages are more expressive; providing opportunities for creative self-expression and interaction, with new scopes for presentation. And just as the printing press was viewed with grave suspicion, so is this (new) language deplored by linguistic purists. They have a point; visual communication is much stronger, causing literacy and linguistic skills to lag behind.

Writing has to be brief because the competition for attention is fierce. The message has to come across strong and quickly, leading to the occurrence of highly abbreviated customs and styles.  There is also the emergence of text messaging to contend with: ‘…exploiting the very limited communicative possibilities made available on tiny cellphone screens…’, according to the Cambridge Encyclopedia. In fact, texting and SMS (Short Message Service) messaging have led to a new, identifiable English in less than five years. Have a look at a few examples:

  • gmta: great minds think alike
  • swdyt: so what do you think?
  • b4: before
  • gr8: great
  • msg: message
  • and so the list goes on.

In fact, texting reminds us a little of the telegram, does it not!

The Author: Believe it or not, as a traditionalist, I still ‘compose’ messages in ‘proper’ English, to the extent that my teenage stepson does the same, but only to me. Probably afraid of the wicked stepmother…

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