First-year college students text more than they write

A study conducted at Michigan State University found that college students enrolled in first-year writing courses text and e-mail more than they write lecture notes, academic papers or research papers.

The study, conducted by Jeff Grabill, professor and co-director of the Writing in Digital Environments Research Center at MSU, surveyed 1,366 students enrolled in first-year writing courses at seven universities.

Grabill said handheld devices allow people to write in a wider range of social practices than in the past.

“I think that the uses of writing, because of the ways in which communication technologies have changed, are more immediate and more powerful and more widespread than they have been,” Grabill said.

Grabill said he believed texting could be damaging to students’ academic writing. But, he said, as a professor he has not received papers with texting abbreviations.

However, Eric Mason, Ph.D., assistant professor of writing in the Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences has received papers with text lingo.

“I’ve definitely seen [texting abbreviations] a few times from students both in written assignments for class and e-mails from students,” he said. “It doesn’t particularly worry me, though. I look at it as a separate dialect, almost like knowing another language. Usually, when you can switch between two different codes, you actually end up knowing a lot more about both.”

Mason said a writing style should be appropriate to the task.

“There are times for formal language, and there are times for informal language,” he said. “When we speak, we don’t use proper grammar, but that doesn’t prevent us from writing well.”

Mei Pou, freshman biology major, said texting does not affect her writing.

“When I text, I try to write well,” she said. “When I write ‘you,’ I try to write the entire word instead of the letter ‘u.’ I try to do it properly.”

However, she said that she has witnessed the negative effects of texting on some of her classmates’ academic writing.

“Sometimes they forget and they write ‘I’ lowercase and ‘you’ with just the letter ‘u,’” she said. “Even my composition teacher has complained. She says to remember to revise essays,” said Pou.

Devyn Vasquez, freshman psychology major said she texts about every hour and e-mails once or twice a week. However, she believed texting did not negatively affect students’ writing.

“Most people know to differentiate between when they’re on their cell phone and when they’re writing a paper,” she said. “I feel that without texting, people probably wouldn’t be writing as much unless it was for school. At least they’re writing.”

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