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Apostrophes Are Disappearing—Why Competent Writing Is Ever Important in Our Text-Messaging Age

Erika M. SchreckCU Parent Newsletter, Fall 2008
The University of Colorado Boulder

Apostrophes are disappearing, and I’m convinced that our newer technology, primarily text-messaging (often called “texting,” which is also now a verb), is the culprit.  When I share my Apostrophe Theory with students, they smirk and then guiltily agree.  In a multi-tasking time, we’ve developed a new language that includes references like LOL and other acronyms, shortened and phonetic spellings like “u” for “you,” and missing punctuation.  Communicating with these systems of language can definitely work with certain audiences, but not everyone is part of this texting world.  In some student e-mail I receive, I don’t always understand a student’s message and am disappointed with the deficiency in spelling skills continuing the “texting” approach.  Furthermore, when students apply for jobs both while in school and post-graduation, employers are impressed with writing skills that demonstrate proficiency, clarity and professionalism.

Prior to teaching, I worked and taught in the business world for communication and marketing departments for companies like American Express and UMB Bank, and I also worked for a temp agency’s hiring and administrative sector.  These experiences and jobs, along with my own passion for writing, were the impetus for wanting to help others succeed and hone their written expression.  Writing skills often make the first impression with a prospective employer through documents like the résumé and application letter but also during employment through e-mail, memos, PowerPoint and other forms of communication.  Additionally, contrary to what most students believe, having a “secretary” to write and edit work is rare and should not be assumed—or used as a crutch for not learning essential material.

CU-Boulder requires lower- and upper-division writing courses, which, with both the requirement factor and common aversion to and fear of writing, can be off-putting to most students.  For 10 years, I’ve taught required first-year and upper-division courses, creative writing workshops, business writing and project management.  Teaching these courses has taught me valuable insights that can also be helpful for you, as parents, when your college-age son or daughter seems frustrated about his/her required writing courses.

  • It’s all about audience.  While text-messaging language or unproofread messages may be acceptable for friends and family, employers and teachers value grammatical and professional standards.  Learning to effectively communicate with different audiences can only assure success.
  • Recognize available and appropriate resources.  Perhaps as a wiser, older individual or as a better writer or even as an English or writing teacher yourself, you may desire to write or edit your student’s paper. Unfortunately, students whose parents have written or edited their work experience several disadvantages, including academic dishonesty, lack of confidence and an inability to write/edit on their own.  CU-Boulder has an amazing Writing Center, and the required writing courses offered by the Program for Writing Rhetoric have class size caps so that writing instructors can offer office hours and writing help; students need to take more incentive for getting the help they need and will then see real improvements in their work.
  • Encourage writing as a reflection of professionalism.  We are judged for how well we write and speak in several contexts; viewing writing effectiveness and proficiency as a functional, necessary skill increases its value and helps us succeed in professional and personal areas.

Erika M. Schreck teaches for the Program for Writing and Rhetoric and Continuing Education departments at the University of Colorado at Boulder.


© 2008 Erika M. Schreck. All rights reserved.