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issue 43

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Training Bulletin Issue 43

Srsly, txting ok 2day?

How widespread is textspeak – or should I say txtspk? Our managing director was surprised recently to see condolence messages written in textspeak, attached to floral tributes. It got her wondering what was and wasn’t considered acceptable use of this new form of communication.

At Plain Words, we know a lot of people who are very interested in clear communication – you, our customers. So we carried out a survey to ask you what you thought about texting. We rang some of our customers to ask them selected questions about the acceptability of textspeak in certain circumstances. We also asked what they thought of using social media such as blogs, Twitter or Facebook in promoting businesses. Some surprises emerged – read on to find out what they were.

Firstly, thank you to everyone who took part! Here is what you told us.

Would you use textspeak in a condolence note?

A surprising (to us) percent of you felt that it’s acceptable to use textspeak in a note of condolence to a friend. The total percent who thought this was acceptable was 21%, with the largest number (83%) coming from the below 30 age group. We would not have predicted this result. But it is more understandable if you consider that textspeak is seen as an informal, even intimate, way of communicating between like people. If you know what the code means you are ‘one of us’. People who don’t know it are outsiders to our group, not like us.

This suggests that texting fits into a long tradition of secret insider-speak that marks and separates social groups – think of cockney rhyming slang. When considered this way, putting it into a condolence message does not seem so odd.

What about textspeak in emails to friends?

When we asked if you would use textspeak in emails to friends, 41% of you said yes, with the highest proportion in the under 40 age group. However, quite a few of our older respondents also said they would do this.

…and business emails?

Opinions did change sharply, though, when we asked if textspeak was acceptable in business emails – none of you agreed to that.

We then asked if poor spelling, grammar and punctuation would affect your opinion of the writers of blogs or business communication. Again, responses were in line with what clients have been telling us for years – 83% of you would be affected by errors in blogs and 100% did not want to see them in business writing.

How do you use social media?

Social media are online ways of staying in touch. We asked if businesses should promote themselves with Twitter, Facebook and so on. This was another interesting divide in your responses: the under 21s said not, but older respondents were more in favour. This suggests that for young people, such sites are seen purely as ways to keep in touch with friends rather than yet another way to sell.

What is particularly ironic about this is the increasing trend among young staff to ‘friend’ their work colleagues and even bosses, then be surprised that personal information such as their partying and drinking habits get back to the workplace.

So where do we go from here?

Like any living language, English changes and you can’t stop that. Change is fastest in casual speech and writing, and some of these changes, such as slang, come and go quite quickly. Some are more enduring and transfer into other forms of writing, with journalism and copywriting often speeding this transfer.

Although business writing is more conservative than either of those, some change is inevitable. We feel that on the whole, companies need to move with the times and accept change, because not doing so can make you look old-fashioned.

This does not mean, however, that it’s acceptable to use textspeak in business correspondence. Rather than refuse to consider textspeak at all, you know when to use it and when not to – and you have told us pretty convincingly that this is still a change too far.

To find out more about what is acceptable in modern business documents, contact .

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Kind Regards
The Plain Words Training Team

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