Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Were4 Rt Thou, Ltrcy?

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Were4 Rt Thou, Ltrcy?

Article excerpt

W/ school abt 2 let out, r u worried that all the texting and tweeting ur kids do will prove 2b bad 4 them?

Have students become so used to trading heavily abbreviated little bursts of information that they'll find it harder to read summer reading assignments, including staples like William Shakespeare? Will some of their shorthand inadvertently slip into their term college papers next fall? Have we fallen so far from the linguistic heights once championed by William Safire?

One university student in England was concerned enough to spend five weeks transposing Act 2, Scene 2 of "Romeo & Juliet" into text- message abbreviations. According to The Guardian newspaper, 22-year- old Alex Edwards' recently released flip book, "Were4 Rt Thou Rmo," alternates his text translations with Shakespeare's words.

"The idea was to give people the power to reject the degradation of the English language," Edwards told The Guardian. "Kids are losing the ability to write and spell properly. I wanted to celebrate the craft of writing, demonstrate the value of language and get people thinking."

Edwards' project raises a question that probably gnaws at many parents: Invaluable as Twitter, text messaging and other short forms of modern communication can be, how will they affect the literacy of future generations? Will there come a day when we're no longer capable of reading and writing glorious, or even acceptable, prose?

Few experts seem to be alarmed about the future. "I think that some of the concerns about the quickness of the Twitters and the emails and things like that are similar to the concerns that DVDs were going to eliminate people actually going to the movies. And that was not the case whatsoever," says Scott Reddin, executive director of Project Literacy of Greater Bergen County. "And so, there's not as much concern among some people in the literacy area that people's reading habits or writing habits will be eliminated. ... When you do this stuff, you do have to read and write ... but everything is shortened."

He concedes, though, that abbreviations can be habit-forming, and while they are "perfectly acceptable" in texts, tweets and emails, Reddin says, "in a classroom setting or certainly in a job setting ... it's not acceptable to do that. ... And that can hurt the person."

Shakespeare lovers

Garland Scott, head of external relations for the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., uses Twitter (@folgerlibrary) to connect with Shakespeare lovers and teachers.

"I actually think that Twitter is not going to have a huge effect on literacy," she says. "I think that Twitter is a great way for people to share information [and] connect with other people who share their interests." Twitter, she says, can also be a tool to help give history and literature a "human and relatable" dimension. …

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