Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Preserving English Text While Texting

Tush tush! A pox upon the texting
habits of our posterity!
As I have traveled around the English speaking world teaching grammar and business writing courses, I am sometimes confronted with various forms of the following question: “Is the future of the English language doomed because of the text messaging habits of today’s teenagers and young professionals?” This question always makes me smile (at least on the inside), partly because I know from whence the questioner’s distress arises, and partly because I possess sufficient optimism to provide a hopeful answer to such queries.

The simple answer to this question is “No”; contemporary young people (and their older adult counterparts who routinely butcher English virtually) are not going to ruin our language – at least not entirely – with their lazy acronyms, painfully poor spelling, and lack of any penchant for proofreading. In the end, the real cost is not to the language itself as much as it is to their own personal and professional credibility. To the extent that they persist in these habits, they tarnish their personal image and minimize their potential for professional advancement in the modern workplace.

Pope wrote that hope springs eternal;
May it be so for your texting diurnal.
It is true that the English language is evolving, and in some ways more quickly than ever before throughout its storied history. But language has always evolved. Such evolution began long before the invention of computers or cell phones, and will continue long after the Millennial Generation has matured. As an optimist in the face of this ongoing evolution, I hold that a vestige of quality language will always remain in tact in Western Civilization and beyond.

If I am to be proven right in purporting the perpetual maintenance of what one might call “High Language,” or at very least, “Professional Speak,” then trainers and other educators must play a vital role. Moreover, if the rising generation is to effectively make the vital transition from “Teenage Texter to Polished Professional Communicator,” a very real “Evolution in the Classroom” must occur to match the seeming language evolution that mirrors the troubled text and instant messaging quagmire in which many young professionals (and others) find themselves mired.

I suggest that this educational evolution ought to be based on the view that ALL language is vital, and therefore worthy of thoughtful composition followed by careful and consistent editing and proofreading. This belief corrects the misnomer held by so many that a text or instant message somehow possesses less literary value than an email, letter, report, etc. It also eliminates the mistaken notion that emails are essentially just a grandiose text message and therefore not worthy of careful construction, eager editing, or precise proofreading.

You would think the importance of CLARITY, CONCISION, and COGENCY in all forms of communication would be a self-evident reality for all writers. Not so! In reality, even the best writers struggle at times to effectively cast their thoughts into the finest molds possible – even after expending good-faith efforts and ample time in the process. As such, is it any wonder that less experienced, and more careless composers commonly craft professional prose that would barely qualify as doggerel were it to morph into verse or suddenly burst forth into song?

In truth, the only thing that is self-evident is that much of the communicating public could use a LOT of training when it comes to communication of all kinds, and perhaps especially so when it comes to the compositions that many create most often: text and instant messages. To remedy this self-evident societal sickness and persistent professional problem, I suggest three primary premises serve as a pedagogical foundation to any effective text or instant messaging educational initiative. And the good news is that these same premises apply to other, longer forms of written communication.

Premise 1: Inscrutable text has no value

ALL communication designed to inform, instruct, or persuade (as opposed to poetry, drama, and fictional prose, which is designed to entertain) only has value if it can be quickly read and readily understood. If your readers are confused by whatever convoluted thoughts and disorganized material you have haphazardly strung together on a screen or page, they will likely find themselves frustrated – perhaps even a little angry – and in many cases may stop reading and give up trying to understand what you are trying to communicate.

I often wonder how many billions of dollars are lost in time and resources every single year in America and beyond for no other reason than that a preventable miscommunication has occurred. All communication counts! Don’t be lazy in carefully organizing and dutifully reviewing each message you decide to craft for another, be it for an individual, small group, or large audience.

Premise 2: Editing and proofreading are paramount—not perfunctory—even for text and instant messages.

No matter how long your composition is, editing and proofreading should not be considered perfunctory tasks, but a paramount part of the process. No matter how good you are at writing, and regardless how much knowledge and experience you bring to your keyboard, everyone makes mistakes. A common misnomer among amateur writers is that great writers get it right on their first draft. Not so! There are times when I will edit and/or proofread a document seven, eight, or even nine times before hitting “send” or otherwise submitting it to its intended audience. And I am typically still making changes on the eighth and ninth revision.

Carl Sederholm, a college professor of mine at Brigham Young University, once told my English class: “You never finish a document; you stop writing.” Dr. Sederholm is correct. Unlike math equations and science questions, there is rarely just one right answer when you are writing. Furthermore, you could theoretically continue making adjustments to any document forever! As such, there is usually a point in time where you must “stop writing” and choose to turn your document in. In the meantime, it is wise to spend as much time editing and proofreading as would be both practical and prudent. It will take more time up front on your part to do this; but oh the time it can save you—and others—down the road if you will do it!

Premise 3: Short messages can be just as important as lengthy communications.

Regardless whether your composition is a text message, a full-page letter, a 20-page report, proposal, grant, etc., or a full-length thesis, manual, or book, every communication matters. If it didn’t, you (or anyone else) wouldn’t bother to take time to craft the message in the first place. While some communications are clearly more important than others (e.g., a supervisor’s formal reprimand or financial statement may carry more weight with you than an email or text message wishing you Happy Birthday), any communication that fails to achieve its intended purpose has failed indeed. I don’t like to fail at anything I seriously attempt. As such, regardless of the medium, whenever I communicate, I greatly value the way in which that piece of information is composed. My goal is to maximize the clarity, concision, and cogency of every message I send. Whether a message is a 20-page report or a 2-line text message makes little difference to me.

It is true that it will take more time to effectively edit and properly proofread a 20-page proposal or a 200-page book than a 2-page email or 2-paragraph text message. In addition, the time I devote to editing and proofreading is typically commensurate to the importance of the document (in consideration of all the stakes involved). Nevertheless, I rarely, if ever, hit my “Send” button until I have done at least one or two editing and proofreading reviews—no matter how long or short the document.

I encourage ALL educators to apply these premises in your own communication practices until they become an unconscious habit on your part. By so doing, you will become a good example to your students, thus empowering you to better teach and model the cultivation of the same premises in their communication habits—and especially with regards to text and instant messaging. As you – and they – so do, the maintenance and perpetuation of the beautiful, elegant, and rich English language will be preserved for generations to come. And in the short run, everyone will save time and money while avoiding unnecessary confusion, stress, and heartache as we send and receive messages that are clear, concise, cogent, and let us not forget—kind—a topic for another day.

In closing, there are some fantastic articles online that provide additional, concrete tips for improving your text and/or instant messaging practices. Here are four I would recommend:

Frankola, K. (2015). Has Instant Messaging Become More Annoying Than Email? 5 Steps for More Productive Pinging. HuffPost Business. Posted 10 May 2015. URL:

Maher, K. (2004). The Dangers of Using Instant Messaging at Work. The Wall Street Journal (Online). Posted 5 October 2004. URL:

Simpson, M. (2013). 12 Tips for Using Instant Messaging. Matt Simpson Blog. 10 April 2013. URL:

Twelve Tips for Instant Messaging in the Workplace. Training and Consulting in International Business Protocol and Social Etiquette. Posted 1 June 2014. URL:

Post Scripts:

What is the Difference Between Editing and Proofreading?

The terms “Editing” and “Proofreading” are often used together or interchangeably. This practice perpetuates the mistaken notion that they are synonyms. In fact, they are different pursuits that are both very important. The difference is that editing involves content while proofreading in concerned with mechanics. In shorthand, we can write:

Editing = Content  and  Proofreading = Mechanics

Editing involves checking a document for completeness and accuracy. It also includes examining a sentence, paragraph, section, chapter, or document’s organization, syntax (word ordering), tone, and flow. Proofreading, on the other hand, involves checking for capitalization, punctuation, spelling, and grammar.

The 3 (Three) C's of Good Writing: Clarity, Concision, and Cogency

All effective written compositions possess two or three fundamental elements. These elements are clarity and concision, and in cases where persuasion is a priority, cogency as well. Clarity begs the question: “Is my writing clear and easy to understand?” Concision begs the question: “Have I stated my message as briefly as possible without using any unnecessary words?” Cogency begs the question: “Will my writing be compelling and/or persuasive to my audience?” After finishing any piece of writing, regardless of the length, if you can honestly look it over and say with confidence: “This composition is clear, concise, and cogent,” then you are ready to turn your work in.

About the Author 

Dr. Jordan R. Jensen
Dr. Jordan Jensen is the Founder & CEO of Freedom Focused and the author of the groundbreaking new book, Self-Action Leadership: The Key to Personal, Professional, & Global Freedom.  He has trained business professionals in 47 U.S. States and Territories, 5 Provinces of Canada, and 9 Counties of Great Britain on a wide variety of soft-skill topics including leadership, self-leadership, management, time management, goal setting, strategic thinking, emotional intelligence, and a variety of communication skills. To learn more about Dr. Jensen and how his company, Freedom Focused, can assist you in achieving your organizational potential, visit

To buy Jordan's new book, click HERE.


  1. These ways are very simple and very much useful, as a beginner level these helped me a lot thanks fore sharing these kinds of useful and knowledgeable information.
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  2. You can now get engaged with your customers by sending a text instead of calling to provide alerts, confirmations, notifications, reminders about your business. Moreover, you can make the marketing process easier for your business. Landline texting for business may help you with this and maybe this is something your company needs to reach your customers easily.


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