Short message service (SMS) or text messaging is very popular in today’s world. Its popularity has led to the development of a distinctive language associated with it which is generally referred to as SMS speak, text speak or txt spk. SMS speak is very pervasive and some writers have condemned its effect on the English language.
Since text messages are transmitted over networks meant for telephone calls instead of data transfer, there is limitation to the number of characters that can be accommodated, usually 160 characters. As a result of this, text message users make use of abbreviations in order to save space. Some of the abbreviations used are “lol” for “laughing out loud”, “2nite” for “tonight”, “idk” for “I don’t know”, “u” for “you”, “ur” for “your”, “brb” for “be right back” and so on.
Moreover, some abbreviations in SMS speak have found their ways into everyday English. It is common these days to see artistes make use of these abbreviations in their songs’ titles as well as lyrics. Some students are also in the habit of using them when taking down notes in the classroom and this may have a negative effect on them. If they get used to them, they may find themselves using the abbreviations during examinations which may result in loss of points.
A lot of writers and language experts have criticized the use of SMS abbreviations saying that they have the ability of destroying the English language. Linguistic traditionalists are of the opinion that “text speak” will decrease the capability of its users to write accurate English sentences and impair their vocabulary as well as spelling. Since the abbreviations came about from the need to pass across short messages, they tend to discourage complex vocabulary and prevent the construction of longer, more stylish phrases.
Furthermore, in other non-English speaking countries, these abbreviations have found their way there. For instance, some abbreviations like “lol” and “brb” are used by French and German SMS users. This can lead to robbing a language of its detail and complexity.
However, SMS abbreviations can never be avoided but there should be caution regarding their use. It is important to restrict their use to text messaging and not for other purposes. Students should be very careful in using them so that they do not have any negative effect on their studies. The aim of “SMS speak” is to save space when sending text messages and it should just be restricted to that.