Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Can U Help Fnd This 4 Me?

Can U Help Fnd This 4 Me? Do you mean - Can you help find this for me? Ahhh, text messaging. It’s one of the latest great advances in telecommunications, and at the same time it is the probable death sentence for the English language as we know it. These messages are supposed to be an easy way of efficiently communicating with other people. (Why don’t you call them?) Formally known as Short Message Service (SMS), text messaging has become a popular form of communicating via the ubiquitous cell phones.
I guess I should state here that I cannot stand text messaging. This probably has something to do with the fact that I am extremely slow at it, since I can never seem to find the right letter. It would be quicker for me to dial up the person, wait for an answer, say hi, and hang up than to type “Hi.” Also, I find it difficult to send a message where there is no grammar and spelling is very relative. I just can’t bring myself to type something like – “C U 2morrow! lol!” However, it seems to be an unwritten law that you have to text like this.
Actually there is a good reason for the texting “grammar.” All SMS messages have to be under 160 characters and are meant to be quick. This is why people resort to leaving out letters, ignoring proper grammar, and using recognized symbols. However, the more people write and even think in terms of this form of communication, the less they will know how to write with proper English grammar. Perhaps I am just an old fogey at heart, but that bugs me to no end.
Anyway, it seems text messaging is invading the world of libraries. In an effort to better serve the patrons of libraries, librarians are setting up SMS reference service where people can text message a reference librarian a reference question. In the SMS reference service set up at South Eastern Louisiana University, students can text a reference question to a librarian, who generally receives it as an e-mail. The librarian then responds to the student by e-mailing a text message to the student’s phone ( Is a service like this really necessary? This particular school already has reference desks manned by actual people, phone lines, e-mail service, and chat groups where people can seek reference help. In addition, all those types of service still abide by the rules of English grammar, whereas normal grammar is completely ignored in the use of text messaging. While it might seem like I am just whining about something I don’t like, it does seem to me that there is some potential for miscommunication through this form of service. As people start taking out letters and ignoring grammar in order to make their message as short as possible, there is real information being left out. One person might think something is not very important, so they don’t pass it along and waste any precious room in the text message they are sending. This could actually be useful information the librarian might need to effectively answer the question they are seeking to answer. The loose grammar and spelling could also lend itself to misunderstandings between the student and librarian as they both struggle to shorten complex questions and answers down to 160 characters. While it makes perfect sense to become as available as possible to the patrons of the library, does it make sense to and is it even efficient to utilize every single form of communication, including one that could easily distort information? Mull that one over while I go actually call and talk to someone.

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