When texting and tweeting became a part of our daily lives, I can't say that I thought they would have much value in terms of effective communication. Let's face it, they are both, in many ways, highly impersonal and almost passive-aggressive at times. They also contribute to what is rapidly becoming a wide-diameter firehose of digital data that is exceedingly difficult to control.
For many, texts and tweets have become the bane of our existence.
But I have come to appreciate both of them. Their benefit may not lie in the ease of interaction, but in the skills that can be gained. Brevity is everything.
One of the primary annoyances that these modes of communication present is the shortcuts that are taken along the way. Text messaging, otherwise known as SMS or "short message service", gives us 160 characters; tweets are up to 140 characters. Unfortunately, this tends to promote the use of abbreviations such as "R U going 2day" which, frankly, seek to obliterate the value and inherent beauty of the English language. There is a tendency to become lazy with our thoughts, our expression, and our vernacular.
But perhaps we can find a deeper value to these modes of communication.
Start with this: the average American reads at an 8th grade level - that of a 13 year-old. Succinct use of the language is key.
Consider a couple of key rules of writing. One is to not use a big word when a short word will suffice. The average length of a word in the English language is 5 characters. That being said, you have about 20 words on top of your Twitter name if you are tweeting, or about 26 words via text. The second is to not use 15 words when 8 words will convey the idea just as well or better.
Imagine the possibility of using texts and tweets as a means of transforming your writing and communication skills. Stop using abbreviations and "lazy language" and use the characters appropriately to adequately describe your thoughts. Say what needs to be said, within the limits of the number of characters, without the abbreviations. It's not as easy as it sounds.
When we do this, we are required to consider what is being said: the content, the context, the wording, and the phrasing. It makes us aware of the old adage of "more bang for the buck". It reminds us of clarity, simplicity, and brevity - three factors related to good writing. This is where I see the potential hidden value of texting and tweeting.
Effective communication is a commodity in our world. The next time that you go to fire off a text message or a tweet, take a moment and keep it simple. Your communication skills will be the better for it.
Photo credits: cogdogblog