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Originally published March 6, 2011 at 7:36 PM | Page modified March 6, 2011 at 7:43 PM

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OMG! Text lingo appearing in schoolwork

Teachers are finding text slang seeping into their students' written work.

The Columbian

VANCOUVER, Wash. — i luv Romeo & Juliet cuz u get to c how in luv the 2 caractrz r :p

Beginning sentences with lower-case letters. Substituting single letters for whole words. Using an ampersand instead of spelling out the word "and." Adding letters and punctuation to make those cute little emoticons.

Clark County teachers have seen it all.

While it's become typical to see "LOL" and "JK" pop up in text messages and Internet chat sessions, teachers are also finding text slang seeping into their students' written work.

"OMG it's everywhere," quipped Mike Kleiner, an eighth-grade social-studies teacher at Chief Umtuch Middle School in Battle Ground.

With preteens and teens relying on their thumbs to communicate, Kleiner said it's no surprise that text lingo is appearing in students' schoolwork.

"I don't think it's a question of they don't know any better," he said. "The thing is, they don't practice any better. They're doing what they practice."

Based on observations from area teachers, many teens appear to be spending quite a bit of their time abbreviating and leaving vowels out of words.

"There's probably some vowels we can do without," Kleiner said, "but I have stringent expectations on grammar and spelling. You don't get to l-u-v things."

Kleiner said he's had students turn in rough drafts of writing assignments with lower-case I's and "ur" instead of "your."

He circles the grammar and spelling violations with a red pen, and the students correct the mistakes in the next draft, he said.

Jeni McAnally teaches a variety of English classes at Columbia River High School, including a class for students who didn't pass the writing portion of standardized tests.

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From time to time, her students will slip abbreviations such as "LOL" into their writing assignments or include smiley-face emoticons at the end of e-mails.

"I think for the most part they show restraint," McAnally said.

McAnally began teaching 11 years ago and said the shorthand writing isn't a new phenomenon. Before texting, students used slang on AOL's instant-messaging service and in chat rooms, she said.

Regardless of how often text lingo appears in the classroom, Kleiner and McAnally believe students do know the correct way to spell "you" and understand that "LOL" (which means "laugh out loud") doesn't belong in an essay about Romeo and Juliet.

"It's not because they don't know the difference," McAnally said. "It's because they're choosing not to or being lazy."

Teens appear to agree.

"It's easy, and we're lazy," said 17-year-old Ben Lyons, a senior at Heritage High School. "We like to take the easy route."

Writing "gonna" instead of "going to" is quicker when sending a text message. Sometimes that mindset transfers into schoolwork, Lyons said.

"I catch myself writing papers," he said. "I have to stop myself because I wanna put 'LOL' or 'u' not 'you.' "

Heritage junior Nate Mitchell, 17, has the same problem.

"The initial thing I want to write is what I would text," Mitchell said.

"People spend more time texting so what comes to mind first is what you would text," he added. "But people know the right way."

While shorthand writing is handy for texting, it just causes problems in the classroom, 17-year-old Derrick Easley said. While he may spend less time writing the assignment, he spends more time editing and correcting the work, he said.

Union High School English teacher Randy Cate said students aren't the only ones guilty of using abbreviations and misspelling words.

He's observed adults and teens shortening words and phrases in written and spoken English, he said. Magazines, newspapers, greeting cards and advertisements all do it too, he said.

People also are creating new words, Cate said.

For example, people use "funner" instead of "more fun" or "funnier"; "funnest" instead of "funniest" or "most fun," he said. They also leave out apostrophes or use "their" when they mean "they're," he said.

"It's the little nuances of language people are tending to be less formal with in their everyday language," Cate said.

While local educators are taking notice of text slang, they aren't alarmed by its presence.

"You tell them, 'Look, there's a context for everything. You don't walk into my room swearing like you do with your friends. You don't text in your papers,' " said Kleiner at Chief Umtuch.

What does worry Kleiner is the amount of time students spend using their phones.

Research suggests mobile phones have essentially become American teenagers' new appendage.

The Nielsen Co. reports that U.S. teens send an average of 3,339 texts per month. That's 107 messages per day; more than six texts every waking hour, according to the report.

"That's a far greater concern than their language skills," Kleiner said. "It's almost a nervous tic for some kids. You can't send 1,000 texts a week and concentrate on something."

The popularity of mobile phones is detrimental to studying, he said.

Columbia River teacher McAnally said she's unsure if texting is negatively affecting students' studies. McAnally couldn't think of an educational benefit to texting. However, she does wonder if predictive text functions that correct spelling and grammar errors will translate to better spelling and writing.

"I don't think it's an ill in society. I don't think it's going to poison our society," McAnally said. "I grew up in the '80s. Did having giant hair and wearing horrible clothes and makeup benefit me? Not really, but it helped me fit in. There's a lot of things we do in life that don't have any tangible benefits but they help us fit in."

So rather than trying to persuade students to stop sending text messages, Kleiner and McAnally said they're more interested in making sure kids know when it's appropriate to use "ur" versus "your."

"I'm talking less about whether they should or shouldn't do it but whether it's situationally appropriate," McAnally said. "That's the reality of literacy in the 21st century."

When students do turn in papers riddled with text slang, McAnally and Kleiner said they use it as an opportunity to discuss the situations when slang is OK (e-mails to friends) and when it's not OK (e-mails to employers).

"I'm always on them about professional communication," Kleiner said. "You want to look smarter than your competitor. Misspelling isn't going to cut it."

To Cate, text lingo is just part of the younger generation's slang and is an example of the inventiveness of the English language.

" 'Cool' will always be 'cool,' " said Cate, who's taught for more than 20 years. "But now you have 'bad' and 'sick' that also mean cool. Each generation brings its own slang."

English, and language in general, is always evolving and changing, Kleiner said.

Look at a book such as "Moby-Dick" (published in 1851) and then read "Twilight" (published in 2005), and the changes are apparent, he said.

"It's like the saying, 'You can get on the train or off the train, but don't get in front of the train,' " Kleiner said. "We're not going to stop kids from texting. We're not going to stop whatever is next. The train is on the tracks."

so rlax evry1. txting is nbd.

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