With the ever-increasing use of technology, usage of online messaging is greater than ever. In their day-to-day lives, people utilize this mode of communication for chatting with friends or talking with colleagues. Due to the frequent use of writing in internet communication, an argument can be made that online messaging can improve writing skills.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t.
Due to the informal language, the lack of grammar and the rapidness of responses, online messaging actually hurts writing development more than it helps.
A great analogy to writing is bodybuilding. If one wants to become a bodybuilder, one needs to eat more. Yet just eating any food does not turn one into a bodybuilder. A bodybuilder needs to eat more strategic food, such as protein, in order to gain muscle mass and sculpt their body.
Likewise, just writing anything, such as chatting in forums or texting with friends, does not make one into a better writer. Just writing more, which is like eating more to try and become a bodybuilder, does not work. In order to become a skilled writer, one needs to write more comprehensively and utilize better expressions than just normal day-to-day forms of communication.
Simply put, one needs to repeatedly employ formal, complex writing, rather than simple, communicative writing.
One reason that online messaging is too simple to substantially improve writing is because of the informal language that is commonly used. Since the writing online is usually targeted to the general public or to friends, most people are lax with their diction. They use words like “wassup” or forget to add the final letter to words like “doing” which becomes “doin’.”
From personal experience, it is expected that words like “what’s up” are abbreviated because it follows the social norm of being more informal in daily internet communications. If some words were not shortened, people would think I was too uptight and “old-school” in my communication.
This writing environment is not conducive to developing strong writing skills as the social pressure in online writing leans towards informality, clearly lacking the necessary professionalism and sophistication needed to improve writing.
Another reason why writing online does not help is due to the lack of conventional grammar. Similar to informal language and probably because of informal language, much of online writings forgo any conventions or structure in grammar. Although emails and other more formal online writings require grammar, the majority of online chatting disregards it.
A prominent example of this phenomenon is the lack of a period after each sentence in informal communications. When I text my friends, I do not put a period after each of my texts. One reason is that I normally write one sentence in my responses, which does not need a period as the surrounding text box acts as the container for that sentence.
The other reason is that a period in texting signifies something important. This is counterintuitive to normal writing as every student has been taught to include punctuation after a sentence. However, in online communication, that is not the case and this disregard for correct grammar and punctuation is why online writing does not contribute to good writing skills.
Finally, online communication is rapid. Due to the fact that people want to get their point across as quickly as possible, people normally text in short bursts that are one sentence or shorter.
These short bursts do not typically include many descriptions of their subject and usually lack a noun or verb that creates a complete clause. The superficial nature of these messages helps to expedite the pace of communication by forgoing punctuation, like commas, and by minimally describing ideas.
However, the result is that many of these texts lack the depth that proper writing has. Even emails, which should be written more formally, fall into this category of rapid writing as people consciously scale down paragraphs and simplify thoughts to make the email quickly readable.
In fact, according to the Washington Post, writing emails that are at the “third-grade reading level” are the ones that get the most reception and writing emails at the college level get the least.
The want to create such rapid responses and get straight to the point diminishes the flowing, detailed responses that are needed for excellent writing.
For example, many literature books describe the sky beautifully, as a ‘magnificent blue, overflowing with the light of the heavens.’ However, due to the directness of online writing, many would just write that it is a “sunny day.”
Because online writing uses such a rapid format for its responses, this activity does not provide the necessary development in quality description used in advanced writing.
By not incorporating proper English diction, grammar, nor detailed responses, online writing is not favorable for generating better writing skills. The usage of informal language and the disregard for grammar does not help improve diction or strengthen sentence development. Finally, the directness of online writing causes a lack of complexity and detail that is found in higher-level writing.
Although people are writing more today than ever in human history, the quality of that writing leaves much to be desired.