Save English – The people against chatspeak

This is something that I hold very close to my heart. We all know that language evolves over time and words warp into variations of themselves through usage. Often a word that is hard to pronounce will, over many years, become accepted in an easier form. There is speculation, for example, that the word ask will become aks in time. Of course, if that does happen, I’m going to have to kill someone, but that still won’t hold back the progression of linguistic development. Or linguistic entropy in the case of the above example. As if ask is hard to pronounce.

However, the prevalence of computer chat rooms, forums and mobile phone text messaging is doing more to destroy our language than centuries of ignorance have managed. Personally, I’m against it. I’m the sort of person that will take the time to write out a text message with correct grammar and punctuation. There are two reasons for this. One, it’s the polite and correct thing to do and two, it’s not hard. Not even vaguely. People are so lazy these days. Before long we’ll all evolve into amorphous globs of quivering, jellified, pasty white flesh, jacked directly into our computers gibbering “lol” and “omg!” at each other. And then you’ll all be sorry.

I’m not alone. Julie Dawson over at Bards & Sages (there’s a link in the sidebar) recently posted an article on this subject and I’m reproducing it here. Stand up and be counted, people. And if, for example, you find yourself rolling on the floor laughing your arse off, write it out in full or simply type ha ha! How hard can it be?

A Petition Against Chatspeak

In George Orwell’s novel 1984, the government is able to control the minds of the citizenry by systematically reducing the number of words available in the English language. By reducing the ability to use the depth of the English language, Orwell warned, the government would be able to reduce the ability of its citizens to think and reason for themselves. Thus making them easily controlled.

Today, we see this dissolution of our language coming, not from the government, but from the growing use and acceptance of chatspeak in common communications. Once designed solely as a means of quickly conveying ideas in a live chat or instant message environment, the annoying abbreviations have seeped into forums, e-mails, and even more formal correspondence.

I have personally had the displeasure of reading electronic query letters from job applicants that are filled with chatspeak. I have actually heard people use the chatspeak word “lol” in actual, face-to-face conversation. As a publisher, I have received countless queries from writers who construct a query letter in the same incoherent chat babble as they would a forum post.

We must stop this downward spiral into incoherent stupidity!

We, the undersigned, having grown tired of being inundated with countless, incoherent posts that look like a Scrabble™ board threw up, hereby declare that we will no longer tolerate this dissolution of the language. The ability to construct a complete sentence is necessary to both understand information you receive and to convey ideas you wish to share. By allowing chatspeak to seep into common communication, we limit our ability to share complex information with each other. Do we really want to be reduced to a society of people whose only means of expressing pleasure or agreement is to type “lol”? Do we really want to be reduced to a society of people who allow illiterate 12 year olds to dictate how we communicate online?

From this point forth, we will strive to combat this epidemic of regressive thinking before it’s too late. We shall no longer accept the lazy-minded notion that chatspeak is quicker and easier, but instead seek to show the users of chatspeak how stupid they really are. We shall correct your grammar in forum posts, return your e-mails unread, and reject your manuscripts with a form letter that says all submissions must be in English, not chatspeak.

Join the rebellion and fight for your right to think in complete sentences with real words before it is too late!


Good work, Julie. I’m in. Drop a comment if you want to “sign the petition” or pass it on.

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4 thoughts on “Save English – The people against chatspeak

  1. I love it when people make a big deal of the ask/aks thing because if you check the history, in Middle English it was of course “aks”. If you check out Chaucer you will find that a person “axeth” another. Then it was metathesised into the current “ask” (a very common/natural process in all languages that probably says more about the neurology of human brains than education).

    Very funny considering… Take that prescriptivism!

    PS. Looking at people writing about language, there has been a perception that people are speaking in a more and more uneducated way for thousands of years. Even today’s English is a “dumbed down” version of Old English, having dropped an immense grammatical apparatus of cases, endings etc etc.

  2. Rather than pontificating, I prefer to observe this phenomena as linguistic evolution, and sometimes take the piss when it gets too ridiculous. Incidentally, I’m a big fan of typo-deliberates (e.g. zOMG!!!!11one!!eleven) as a form of satire.

    There are definite technological imperatives and medium constraints that justify chatspeak. If you are typing in real-time (ever been in a real chatroom?), I don’t see a problem with using “IMHO” and “IIRC” instead of “In my humble opinion” and “If I remember correctly”. It is more efficient and only adds further meaning, assuming all parties are aware of these abbreviations. Abbreviations *do* serve a legitimate purpose.

    Other than the technical constraint of speed in a real-time scenario, you have, say in SMS, a character limit within which you need to be able to convey your message. Fine and well to use Her Madge’s English when you are saying “Honey, could you please buy some bread and milk on the way home?” but when you need to get across a lot more information within a measly 160 character limit, you need to cut down on characters, and thus “Hun, cud u pls buy sum bred n milk on the way home?” may be perfectly acceptable to some. Proper spelling and grammar is further hampered by the tiny keypads and inefficient user interfaces on mobile phones.

    Also, some people just can’t type. I’d hate to be one of those people.

    I will say that I do think when writing a document, letter or even email, good punctuation, grammar and spelling shows you aren’t a moron, as there isn’t really any excuse for it there.

    I think trying too hard to maintain the language in its current state (linguistic conservativism?) is akin to trying to maintain racial purity. It denies diversity and evolution.

    And I have to warn you, correcting spelling and grammar in forums is considered very petty and will usually result in people ignoring whatever you have to say. It’s a case of “rising above it” and moving on. Like if you saw an idiot on the street, you wouldn’t just approach them and tell them they were an idiot would you? (Well not in London, you’d end up stabbed, innit.)

    PS WordPress site is looking good, how long now since you changed over from Blogger?

  3. “And I have to warn you, correcting spelling and grammar in forums is considered very petty and will usually result in people ignoring whatever you have to say. It’s a case of “rising above it” and moving on.”

    Well, that depends. I tend to hang around on a lot of writers’ forums and you won’t get away with anything there. 😉

    Been on WordPress for months now. You’ve been busy globetrotting, so I won’t hold your lack of visits against you.

  4. I agree, though I must say, it may be hard to get people out of the habit. I still find I use a very minimal amount of chatspeak. Mostly Lol, brb and g2g, but never when writing, and I /hate/ it when these are used in real life.
    Nevertheless, it’s simpler to use chatspeak, and as annoying as even /I/ find it, I can’t get out of the habit of lol’ing, so it’ll be hard to get society away from this.
    But I do know I’ve been working to stop mine own chatspeak. It’s a little tiresome, really.

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