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Kids Improve Writing Online 325

aelfric35 writes "Ben Franklin advised his son not to allow schooling to interfere with his education. Even though many have disparaged the effects of IM on schoolchildrens' prose, some kids are actually becoming better writers by participating in online communities. Henry Jenkins writes in MIT's Technology Review about how some kids are gaining writing and editorial experience far beyond what their schools can offer by participating in Harry Potter fan fiction forums (sorry about the alliteration)."
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Kids Improve Writing Online

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  • not for me (Score:4, Funny)

    by joejg ( 633973 ) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @03:20AM (#8210297)
    "...alliteration"? I guess the better writing and vocabulary doesn't apply to me.
    • Huh?

      Go expand your vocabulary [reference.com].

    • Oh please... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by KDan ( 90353 ) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @08:22AM (#8210966) Homepage
      For every online community that may improve the writing of a handful of the kids who participate to it, there are 10'000 online communities where everyone (mostly native english speakers) spells like english was their fifth language that they're still learning. That's like saying that watching the debilitating cartoons on the usual channels improves kids' imaginations and creativity. It's a complete pile of arse.

      There is a tiny minority who are improving themselves despite the apalling effects of the absence of grammar and spelling education, but pointing at those and saying "oh, look, the system works!" is just plain stupid.

      • Re:Oh please... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cloudmaster ( 10662 )
        I writre good now, LOL!

        Sigh. Improved writing skills my eye. The above's right - look at any online message board, and witness the abhorrent spelling 'n grammar. Even basic sentence structure eludes most IM-ers, which makes sense. The goal is speed, with accuracy being a distant second. I find it rather unlikely that downplaying the importance of accuracy somehow *improves* accuracy... :)
  • by nil5 ( 538942 ) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @03:20AM (#8210299) Homepage
    I LeArN3d 4ll mah SkillZ OnliNe. it iz teh b3sT wAy d00d!!!
  • Writing better? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by derrith ( 600195 ) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @03:22AM (#8210305)
    I'm a senior in high school at the moment, and I see a lot of kids who have become disgusted with misspellings and abbreviations. They make it a point to be sure that correct grammar and spelling is utilised, whether online or in the real world. There is a backlash against IM idiocy. However, grammar is still poor, as most kids are not taught the rules of the english language, I'm learning more about sentence construction in my German class than I have in English over the past 13 years.
    • Re:Writing better? (Score:5, Informative)

      by MightyPez ( 734706 ) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @03:29AM (#8210332)
      I can't agree more with what you said. I dabbled in Spanish and German in high school. Both classes made me appreciate the intricacies and nuances of language. I had a better appreciation for not only other languages, but my own as well.

      And I am most definitely a part of that backlash. When I see "loose" being used in place of "lose", my blood starts boiling.

      Of course, none of this excuses my notoriously poor typing skills. Typo-s aplenty!
    • Re:Writing better? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Dlugar ( 124619 ) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @03:29AM (#8210334) Homepage
      However, grammar is still poor, as most kids are not taught the rules of the english language, I'm learning more about sentence construction in my German class than I have in English over the past 13 years.
      I went to a lecture by John Searle a couple of weeks ago, and he made the statement that "You never really learn grammar until you study a foreign language." I think that's very true--I honestly don't think "English grammar" should be taught in schools--teach them Latin, or German, or any other language for that matter--and you'll end up teaching them more about English grammar than they ever would have otherwise learned.

      • Re:Writing better? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jkujawa ( 56195 ) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @03:44AM (#8210391) Homepage
        You need the contrast. It's a very common experience that a person doesn't really learn grammar until s/he's studied a second language, but you need the basis in grammar in the first language before you have something to compare against.
      • by Serious Simon ( 701084 ) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @04:22AM (#8210483)
        Having taken Latin classes for six years, many years ago, I have sometimes pondered the point of learning a dead language.
        I came to the conclusion that by learning Latin I actually learned a lot about my own language (which is Dutch, by the way).

        In fact, exercises almost exclusively consisted of translating from Latin and not the other way around.

        An interesting aspect of Latin is that the grammatical structure relies more on declinations (word endings); and word order in Latin sentences does generally not correspond to that of the translation in e.g. English or Dutch. Translating a Latin sentence involves looking up unfamiliar words, and figuring out the grammatical functions and relations of the words in the sentence. After the analysis comes the synthesis: writing a grammatically correct sentence in Dutch (or English, etc.) that accurately represents the meaning of the Latin sentence. I am sure that the skills thus learned are also helpful when it comes to expressing original thoughts.

        • by TomV ( 138637 ) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @06:10AM (#8210704)
          "Latin is a language
          as dead as dead can be.
          It killed the ancient Romans,
          and now it's killing me."

          Nonetheless, I honestly believe that learning Latin at school has genuinely contributed to my coding. It's a wonderfully rigorous and structured language, but one which uses that rigour and structure to describe the real world. The strength of Latin is its unforgiving structure, while the strength of English is its flexibility.

          Apart from anything else Latin lessons gave me a clear understanding of terms such as 'syntax' and 'parse', of proper sentence construction and the importance of precision in language.

          I also feel there may, in some sense, be an added benefit, which manifests in a variety of ways, some obvious and some far more subtle, to be gained from the study of a language, even a language which is no longer current, vernacular or in any sense idiomatic, from which not only are a great many of the present day languages of Europe clear derivatives, but which was also the nearest thing to a universal language for many centuries, in which it would be, were that language to be more widely used today, considered entirely reasonable to construct sentences of great structural complexity, far beyond that displayed in current English, containing a range of subsidiary clauses, embedded phrases, hypothetical diversions and clearly structured formations such as the dreaded Ablative Absolute, with the consequent benefit of a remarkable precision in the expression of far more complex constructs in a single structural unit than might be possible in a language tending towards a shorter, more atomic, style of construction.

          On the other hand, there's readability to consider... ;-)
        • by Anonymous Coward
          Of course, it all dependes on how (what) the languages happen to be... Your native Dutch is very close kin to English, so the Latin comes in handy.

          I'm Finnish, and as we have a very explicit syntax (visibly encoded in affixes), I didn't need exposure to another language to become aware of it. What was nice, the English grammar was a piece of cake to learn after Finnish. (And the pronunciation (more accurately, the *spelling*) in turn was a nightmare to get right...)

          In Finnish, word order just adds nuanc
      • Re:Writing better? (Score:2, Insightful)

        by g-doo ( 714869 )
        I'm sure that learning a Latin-based foreign language might help, but there are plenty of people like me (and many of my colleagues) who have a grasp of English grammar from the teaching of English and years of writing and reading alone.
      • by ee_moss ( 635165 ) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @04:57AM (#8210560)
        you'll end up teaching them more about English grammar than they ever would have otherwise learned.

        I think the exception to this is my high school spanish teacher. She didn't know English and she didn't know Spanish. We argued for 3 weeks whether the word "Spanish" in the sentence "We are in la clase de la Spanish" (yes, that's how she said it) was an adjective or a verb. She argued in favor of the verb. Ah, public education.

        One funny thing to note is she once gave out referrals (passes to go see the principal) to 2 students for "sending psychic messages during a test." The kids were staring at their papers very intensely and, to her, were apparently communicating answers psychically. Another one of her students jumped out of her second story window while she was teaching class, and she didn't know until he came back upstairs through the door.
        • Sounds like my Spanish 1 teacher. The worst part is when we learnt about families and she got pocessives all wrong.

          "Okay class, how you say 'jour hermano's padre' in espanol?"
          "No. Es is tio"
          *under breath*"Maybe in your hillbilly family"

          We all failed the test for putting down the correct answers. One other fun thing to note is when one girl in our class showed another what happens when you spray hairspray on a cigarette lighter. She was told to "quiet down".
        • Re:Writing better? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by canajin56 ( 660655 )

          Hehe, sounds about as competent as my grade 7 science teacher. First, he taught us that women have more ribs than men. I tried to correct him but he asked to talk to me after class...where he explained that he knows that, but he can't teach that or the religious parents will get mad.

          Next, he taught us that babies' skulls have a gap in them so that their brain can grow. I said "But it fuses within a few months. Yet an adult's head is quite a bit larger than an infants. Obviously, your skull can grow

      • It's not always true. Being German, I had to learn German grammar in school, and it's quite difficult even for native speakers (or at least was until much of it was watered down a few years ago). Strangely enough, I was one of the few who just got it, without the need for a foreign language, but there are many who say that they didn't really get it until they learned Latin, a language with an even more complex grammar, from scratch.

        English on the other hand doesn't seem to have much of a grammar (I mean, a
    • Re:Writing better? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by tommertron ( 640180 )
      I tend to think of myself as a fairly good writer, in terms of being able to put a concise sentence together and obey most grammatical rules...

      But when I'm messaging... it's like a whole different grammar structure, which I think should be accepted within that context. I don't capitalize in messaging. I rarely use punctuation. Why should I be chastised for that? Messaging is more like speaking verbally, I find, and having done transcription work for a fair number of years, I can tell you that people almos

      • Re:Writing better? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Skidge ( 316075 )
        Instant messaging definitely should have more lenient grammatical rules, if the person you are talking with doesn't mind. Since it's such a personal type of conversation (typically only one member of your audience), you generally have a good feel of what kind of grammatical hangups your audience has. However, the problem occurs when people allow the lax instant messaging grammar to overflow into their other writings. If you want the maximum number of people to listen to what you are saying, you should proba
    • Re:Writing better? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by forevermore ( 582201 ) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @03:33AM (#8210350) Homepage
      I can definitely agree with this. Though I grew up bilingual in English and Spanish (I had the fortune of growing up for at least a few years of my childhood outside of the US, immersed in South American culture), I learned more about English grammar and linguistics in the 2-3 years of German I took before/after college (long story short, the "after" was pretty much just for fun).

      In college, and a good one [whitman.edu] at that, many of my professors were amazed that more than half of students still didn't understand the differences between "its" and "it's", "their," "they're" and "there," or "your" and "you're". I even ran across the occasional student in grad school [uchicago.edu] who had this problem. It's a sad day when students at some of the top schools in the country don't even understand their own language.

    • Re:Writing better? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Ray Radlein ( 711289 ) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @03:37AM (#8210359) Homepage
      Grammar is largely the outward manifestation of orderly thought in a given language. You don't notice English Grammar for the same reason that a fish doesn't notice the water. You've had all your life to slowly absorb the lesson that some ways of arranging words in English sentences just don't work.
    • Re:Writing better? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by yintercept ( 517362 ) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @03:39AM (#8210367) Homepage Journal
      I'm learning more about sentence construction in my German class than I have in English over the past 13 years.

      The only way to learn your language is to study another. This is especially true for English which is weird because it is a mix of many different tongues.

      To make matters worse, the new style grammars that have been place for the last half century rejected teaching sentence structure. For important philosophical reasons, you are not supposed to know about the predicate and object in a sentence. Me, I learned about helper words and action words, and am clueless about real English grammar.

      • Re:Writing better? (Score:2, Insightful)

        by g-doo ( 714869 )
        The only way to learn your language is to study another. This is especially true for English which is weird because it is a mix of many different tongues.

        I'm sure that's not the only way to learn your language. I know plenty of people have had a good grasp of the English language long before they learned any foreign language.

        Also, I think that you mean to say that, if you're learning English, learning a Latin-based foreign language would help. Learning Arabic or Japanese or Mandarin probably wouldn't

      • The only way to learn your language is to study another. This is especially true for English which is weird because it is a mix of many different tongues.

        I disagree. The study of another language will draw attention to the difference between that language and your own, and it may help you appreciate the structure of your own language. But to understand that structure, you have to study the language itself. It seems like people who have studied other languages generally do better with their own, but I t

    • I'm glad that my parents paid for my high school education. I actually learned grammar. I still see mistakes in top rate papers like the WSJ & NYT, and it reminds me of that damn project that I had to do in 10th grade. Finding 30 grammatical errors in the articles of major papers and correcting them was a royal pain in the ass.
      • Re:Writing better? (Score:3, Informative)

        by 0x0d0a ( 568518 )
        IIRC, except for comparisons and a few other specific exceptions, numeric representations of numbers should not be used in English text.

        The tidbit "...in 10th grade." would then be "...in tenth grade", and "Finding 30 grammatical errors..." would be "Finding thirty grammatical errors..."

        In addition, the subject if your third sentence is "mistakes". The subject is plural, and hence "it" in the second clause of that sentence should be "they".

        Of course, all this really goes to show is that it's very diffic
    • Re:Writing better? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by CAIMLAS ( 41445 ) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @04:47AM (#8210544) Homepage
      I'll agree with you completely. Public schools in general put the lowest priority on grammar; in reality, it's probably one of the most important things you could learn in high school (at least as a scholastic skill that can be quantified).

      I attended a private school my sophmore year of HS. That was an incredibly difficult year for me, as the english class was quite intense in teaching the nuances of the english language (at least compared to anything I'd seen prior, or have seen since).

      For basic grammar, we used Abekka books. They had the basic "underline this part of speech, circle that" problems, but in addition, there was a huge amount of space dedicated to things such as common mistakes that most people make (your|you're, its|it's, who|whom, nauseated|nauseous, etc. etc. - I've forgotten most of the specifics by now, but I have the feeling I'm still aware of most of them through basic osmosis)).

      Additionally, we had latin roots, prefixes and suffixes (probably 20 or so a week combined) as well as 20 or so 3-sylabilic+ words and at least 1 book a week from the library (which didn't have shit rags like Hardy Boys in it). It was quite the course load.
      • nauseated|nauseous

        You mean nauseous|nauseating, right? ;)

        I love my American Heritage Dictionary of English Usage. It gives histories of the controveries and actual usage patterns, and its editors have found a good balance between not disagreeing with traditional usage commentators and practicality.
        • You mean nauseous|nauseating, right? ;)

          I don't think so, ignoring any grammatical errors, "I'm feeling nauseous" means the same as "I'm feeling nauseated".

          • Re:Writing better? (Score:2, Interesting)

            by jesser ( 77961 )
            That's my point, sort of. The parent to my post seemed to be agreeing with many usage commentators (but disagreeing with most Americans) that "naseous" is supposed to mean "nauseating" rather than "nauseated".
    • I'm a senior in high school at the moment, and I see a lot of kids who have become disgusted with misspellings and abbreviations.

      He mentions that he also studies German. That's a good thing, as kids learn the differences and similarities with/between words and tend to become curious why that is. Learning is good, and an idiot in [insert language here] (just as an example, no culture-bashing) is just as stupid as an idiot in English. I speak broken Francais, myself, but I've learned a lot about how people
    • I'm not surprised. A few years ago I had a job as a literacy tutor. At my school (an elementary school), kids who studied a second language usually performed better with reading and writing in English.

      • kids who studied a second language usually performed better with reading and writing in English.
        That may have been because kids that want to learn a second language are probably more interested in language than those who don't.
        In this case, cause and effect may not be what you think.
    • This is all very welcome. There was a time when the worst perps were the people writing off US ISPs. That this is changing cannot be but great.

      Language is culture, and culture is heritage, and it's always something to be proud of. Good use and respect for one's language implies respect for oneself. It can't be but a winner.

    • Re:Writing better? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by BuilderBob ( 661749 )

      There is a simple enough reason for this.

      English is taught (at least in English speaking countries) as a language for everyday use. In England I guess it would be something like Estuary English [ucl.ac.uk]. It's a language where words are slurred together (in a general sense, I'm not implying the English are drunk all the time :), 'slow' letter-groups are lost (what==w'ot, what's up==wass'up, hmm...). What is really being said is obtained mostly from the context and slang is used often.

      Foreign languages, in your ca

  • by LeninZhiv ( 464864 ) * on Saturday February 07, 2004 @03:22AM (#8210307)
    I can see the handwriting on the wall, soon the buggers' invasion will allow Locke and Demosthenes to obtain unprecedented political authority! Something must be done!
  • by Dlugar ( 124619 ) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @03:23AM (#8210311) Homepage
    Ben Franklin advised his son not to allow schooling to interfere with his education.
    Um, wasn't that Mark Twain [google.com]?

    On a more serious note, if you want some highly interesting reads on how "schooling interferes with your education," read some stuff by John Taylor Gatto [cantrip.org]. It's scary 'cos it's true.

  • Sorry... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Most of the fanfiction I've had the misfortune to skim has featured grammar, spelling, and punctuation that would be a disgrace even on usenet, let alone here or on any other forum where writing mechanics are expected to be more than a mockery of an effort.
  • It does work... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Robotech_Master ( 14247 ) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @03:28AM (#8210329) Homepage Journal
    In my early college years, shortly after I discovered the 'net, I got involved with a number of writing communities...writing Robotech fanfic, writing alt.pub.dragons-inn and alt.pub.havens-rest series, and eventually the Superguy [eyrie.org] listserv. And it certainly did improve my writing, over time.

    The secret is practice and peer review. That's the best way to build writing skill, whether the Internet is involved or not. The Internet makes it easier, that's all.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 07, 2004 @03:32AM (#8210345)
    Ah, I can remember it like it was yesterday... Back in the day, downloading erotic stories from BBS's, printing them on the trusty old Epson dot-matrix, and reading them before going to bed. Porn has improved my reading skills and my imagination.

    Even today, I'm sure it still has the effect of improving hand-eye coordination and strengthening my forearms.

    Three cheers for porn!
  • Hey, I see some 13 year old Slashdotter's post getting modded up to +5 Insightful... I assume that suggests something...
  • As a homeschooler... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by EmbeddedJanitor ( 597831 ) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @03:36AM (#8210355)
    We teach our kids at home, as do thousands of families through the world. I have nothing against teachers, I think it amazing how they manage to do as well as they do, shepherding thirty kids along. However they clearly don't have opportunities to expand each kid's personal interests. The fundamental principle of homeschooling is to have, and provide, the freedom to allow each kid to retain that curiosity we're born with.

    It is no suprise to me that the kids participating in online forums are doing well, when they're doing things they want to do they will put in more effort and energy. It is a given.

    • by asavage ( 548758 ) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @03:46AM (#8210400)
      Unless they spend sometime with children their own age some other way(like with scouts), there could be some serious lacking in interpersonal skills when they grow older.

      It is even worse with only children. They are seriously deprived when the are homeschooled and it can really effect their quality of life when they are older. There is a lot more to school than gaining knowledge.

      • by irokitt ( 663593 ) <archimandrites-i ... m ['aho' in gap]> on Saturday February 07, 2004 @04:30AM (#8210502)
        I get my interpersonal skills through Slashdot, you insensitive clod!

        Seriously though, why do people think home schoolers get locked into basements and forgotten? They *do* meet other children, whether through things like scouts or sports or not. We aren't a bunch of recluses, you know. We don't try to stick a floppy in someone's mouth [theonion.com].
      • That's not quite true. Actually, I'd say it is out-right false, but I'll give you the benefit of doubt.

        I am (or was, I'm graduating now) a home-schooled
        child. I also do not have siblings. I haven't ever
        been to a summer camp, or belonged to very many groups. I have had only a few close friends.

        Yet, I do not think I'm lacking in inter-personal
        skills. Actually, I seem to be more gregarious (sp?) than most other geeks that I find.

        If I am deprived of anything, it is being maltreated by my peers. :)

        Where have
  • by miradu2000 ( 196048 ) * on Saturday February 07, 2004 @03:37AM (#8210361) Homepage
    I'm 17, and senior editor of a website that is read by about? 13,000 people a day, and trust me, my writing skills have greatly improved. I write daily news and reviews, and over the last 5 years working at this site have developed a unique style.

    There are two things that have contributed to my becoming a better writer: One, writing lots - my "hobby" has made me write more than I would of ever written normally at this stage of my life, and two, when you are read by 15,000 people, a couple people out of those 15000 point out every little error you make.. and I have learned from those errors.

    My main focus is reviews and analysis of blah, and the experience i have gained online has shown up well in school through my commentary's and other literary analysis thatI do, my english grades are much improved over where they were several years ago, and each year get better. (If only I could make these skills blatently evident in college applications *cough* columbia's fu foundation *cough*).

    School, in tandom with the web have made me a much better, and much closer to a college level writer. I think the key thing about the web is that it has removed the age barrier. I started in 7th grade, and I wrote from a kids perspective. As I grew up, my writing also grew up to the point that now only do I do the writing, I also run much of the site. I don't think that most of my readers know that I am still in highschool. I am infinitly grateful for the web to have presented me with thise opportinities. I frankly don't know where I would be without it. (I started using the web in '93... thanks to a brand new school with a brand new computer lab)
  • by dohadeer ( 598581 ) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @03:49AM (#8210406)
    I think anyone who has spent a reasonable amount of time looking through the Harry Potter fanfic community would realize that this is not a place you want your children freely roaming about or practicing their writing skills. That is not to say that there aren't plenty of wonderful writers out there who write really amazing stories. Some of these stories are full of real emotion and demonstrate the skill of a number of talented, undiscovered writers. Rather, I'm simply saying that an unsupervised child in the world of Harry Potter fanfiction might wonder how exactly Severus Snape managed to get pregnant with Draco Malfoy's baby, and why exactly Ginny Weasley became so much of a harlet.

    Having been exposed to both sides of the HP fanfiction, and having rejected both of them for my own reasons, I would have to say any parent that would encourage their child to join in this type of community has certainly not been exposed to it in its entirety and would be sorely mistaken to assume it is a safe place for children to roam.
  • by oobob ( 715122 ) * on Saturday February 07, 2004 @04:04AM (#8210439)
    Even though many have disparaged the effects of IM on schoolchildrens' prose, some kids are actually becoming better writers by participating in online communities.

    I don't get why people say this. You could claim that IM faciliates poor English, but I don't see this as an direct effect. How could a program turn words and structure into that s*** you find in chatrooms?

    I think kids are just farking lazy. While IM allows them to write horrible sentences without being screeched at by teachers, implying that poor prose is caused by IM is a stretch. These are the kids who, don't know when to, use commas, or won't use the correct words, even if they're forced. IM just allows that trend to solidify into habit, since they're all chatting instead of watching TV or talking on the phone. Think about it: if computers didn't exist, when would these people write at all?

    wold u disagre?

    In high school, I offered a classmate (in the accelerated English class, mind you) the chance to break my physics bridge if he wrote a pro-choice paper, mainly because I was sick of hearing his Christian ramblings during class. I'm undecided on abortion, but I wanted to understand how someone like him would argue against his beliefs. I saw a perfect opportunity to challenge his arrogant moral zeal, the same flavor that makes the rest of the world hate us and makes me want to break his face. When I saw his draft, I almost cried. The writing was so unstructured that I could hardly understand anything. The kid couldn't conceptualize a thought he didn't agree with, much less express it in a quasi-coherent form.

    When I started using IM, my anal-retentive friend would scream at me if I didn't include puncuation, or capitalize my sentences. Now, I can't stand when others don't do the same, and my writing has benefited tremendously. If I write a paper and check it once, I catch most errors, and figure out more effective ways to arrange sentences. Your ear will learn syntax and structure, even if you don't. Writing benefits writing, and the only harm inflicted by IM is allowing kids to write how they want. If you read any number of high school papers (my dad used to teach 10th-11th grade English), you'd understand. The difference between those papers and IMs? Well, they capitalize their sentences, and they're considerate enough to include periods.
    • IM is not writing. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @08:38AM (#8210990) Journal
      Using IM is more similar to speaking than to writing. Writing involves thinking, analysing, perhaps brainstorming, putting words to paper, and it often involves re-thinking or re-writing those words. Speaking (and IM) require a rather fast response, leaving you little time to ponder your words. Indeed, how often in a normal conversation have you paused to think, or carefully picked your words? Not often probably... such pauses aren't called 'uncomfortable silences' for nothing. Also... the next time you're speaking with someone, try and pay attention to grammar and pronunciation: you will notice that everyday spoken language is very rarely gramatically correct.

      Proper writing and IM are so dissimilar in nature that I doubt that children will pick up good or bad habits by using the 'broken' language of IM. Let your kids use IM all they want; just make sure they do some 'proper' reading and writing as well sometimes.
  • by quantaman ( 517394 ) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @04:10AM (#8210456)

    No, it hasn't really improved my grammar or spelling (sorry grammar nazis), but through the obscene number of posts I've made since I've started contributing to slashdot discussions I have refined my writing skills. In my quest to come across intelligently and post something that people will want to read I've gained valuable communication skills. For evidence I simply consider how much better I do with respect to karma than when I first started posting, sure the karma bonus helps and I've probably learned to be a bit of a karma whore (why post something that no one will read) but I do believe a significant increase in the number of my comments that get modded up is due to writing skills I have improved by posting to slashdot.

    As well I've even tried writing short stories and posting them on my site, not that they're any good but it's fun to put up something that someone might read (even if it's only a couple friends who give pleasently baised reviews:). I don't get to write as much as I'd like to but I've found I very much enjoy doing it and I am sure I never would of started if it was not for the ability to post them online even though no one will read them but a couple friends who I could have given them to anyway.

    It doesn't matter if it's posts to slashdot or short stories on my site, the online community has inspired me to write things that require thought and that cannot help but cause my writing abilities to improve. Now I merely await the trolls who shall flock to point out that this post isn't well written at all (hey it's 1 am here!).
    • You beat me to it :)

      I'm coming up on 1900 posts on slashdot, and though many of them were funny one liners, incoherent rants, subtle trolls and raging flamebait, many have been rather thought out and labored over.

      I find posting to slashdot is like a journal of sorts; I've discovered and formed many opinions, revised them, thrown some out, and revisited them.

      Slashdot has done much for my thinking, as responding to arguments requires (for me anyway) a well-reasoned response. Mostly I've found that I'm co

  • "Holy Hell, he hardly hesitated!"

  • I disagree (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Seft ( 659449 )
    Firstly, writing isn;t improving due to some fan fiction. Writing is improving due to the fact that people are reading more. Whereas 5+ years ago kids could get away almost entirely without reading, now they *have* to read to use the internet. This is especially true for those who will be reading more serious pages. Improved writing is a result of an improved vocabulary, logically this has to be the case. Equally, grammar is declining simply because it isn't being taught. If you have ever taken a modern la
  • by NixLuver ( 693391 ) <stwhite@kche r e t i c . c om> on Saturday February 07, 2004 @04:26AM (#8210493) Homepage Journal
    The title is a little bit of a stretch; what I mean to say is that most of the people I exchange IMs with are abominable at spelling and worse at grammar. Fortunately for my peace of mind, it doesn't bother me very much as long as I can actually apprehend what they're trying to convey.

    People that speak clearly will put punctuation in random places. One of my friends explained to me that he knew punctuation belonged in there, but he didn't know where it went, so he made it up as he went along.

    In the end, however, language is a popularity contest, right? The words used the most frequently prosper and surge into the forefront of our vocabularies, and those less often used fade away. Spelling and grammar are also in flux constantly, but at a very slow rate that drops below most peoples' radars.

    As time goes on and these electronic tools become more and more common, I would expect to see a levelling occur; Even though I can spell fairly well, I'd advocate phonetic spelling and reduction or elimination of homonyms. Call me a philistine, I don't care...

    change for the machines. It's a stoned-the-crows-at-home Schroedinger's world.

  • by porp ( 24384 ) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @04:34AM (#8210514)
    Okay, maybe I'm just drunk, but I read the headline "Kids Improve Writing Online" about 100 different ways before reading the blurb and seeing what the poster meant. Now that I understand that kids are improving their writing abilities by communicating in online forums, the headline is still pretty ambiguous. Perhaps the kids should improve writing slashdot. online.

  • Anybody remember these guys? [everything2.com]


  • by nic barajas ( 750051 ) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @04:40AM (#8210530)
    What is improving the writing of students - or even adults - may be communities like this, but only if the person is so inclined to improve him or herself. Or instead have people pushing them to change. My brother, for example, is involved in a role playing game played via e-mail. He is on top of his grammar and spelling, while others are not.

    Some will never get off their 'u r 2 kewl' and onto meaningful spelling. It's when you are writing for a larger audience than a high school English class that you become more obsessed with the way you convey your meaning. (That's what makes writing this comment so hard!)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 07, 2004 @04:41AM (#8210534)
    I write in a lot of different ways which vary greatly depending on where I am trying to communicate via the keyboard. This is entirely natural, however people seem damned sure to miss the obvious logical connection.

    Different forums. Different grammar.

    On livejournal my words come out pretty much like they would from my head, random, stream of consciousness with little regard for form. Chatting? Chatting is for filling in on communication with another person when you can't/won't see them in person or talk on the phone. IM doesn't need or require the same level of formality that one puts into papers or correspondence for work.

    There's nothing wrong with 'teh k1dz' these days writing garbage in chat or in forums because these are throw away mediums, no different than a phone chat, except they may be saved for others to see.
  • Graduation (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Grym ( 725290 ) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @05:02AM (#8210568)

    I'll never forget the time when I was standing in line to appear for graduation (2002). All of us in the top ten were talking about our speeches, and I asked one of them (2nd in our class) if I could read her speech. I skimmed through the standard-issue "glad we made it this far"-crap, but when I finished, I realized that she ended the speech with a preposition. I laughed, and mentioned this to her, suggesting a minor change. Her response? She simply shrugged and said she didn't care.

    I think this is the true problem with most kids nowadays. They don't care. And why should they? I remember most of my "writing" classes consisted of idiotic writing prompts like:
    "If you were a seagull, what would you do?" (actual prompt)
    These classes are too much about expressing your inner-seagull that punctuation and grammar are considered secondary at best; page length being the most important factor, of course.

    I mean, honestly, the problem isn't that difficult to define. Let's not blame IM for what is fundamentally the fault of our society as a whole. I think, before we point fingers, we all need to step back and ask ourselves, "What is going on here?"

    • Re:Graduation (Score:2, Interesting)

      Wow, I had actually forgotten how stupid highschool english classes were until I read that! Most of mine were better than "If you were a seagull, what would you do?" (actual prompt), but that is exactly what all the standardized tests looked like.
      My guess is somebody decided that creativity is much more important than the knowing what the phrase "past participle" means. Parents don't want their children to be the next $40,000/year editor at Harper Collins, they want their kid to be the next J.K. Rowling.
    • Re:Graduation (Score:4, Informative)

      by odin53 ( 207172 ) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @07:02AM (#8210829)
      As Winston Churchill said, "This is the sort of English up with which I will not put."

      You might want to pick up a copy of Strunk and White: "Not only is the preposition acceptable at the end, sometimes it is more effective in that spot than anywhere else." You won't find a reputable modern English guide that teaches differently.
  • ALERT! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    This just in, writing frequently improves related skills.
  • Worked for me (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ReyTFox ( 676839 ) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @06:09AM (#8210700)
    I've probably written pages and pages of stuff since I was 8(18 now), when we first got an Internet connection. At first, it was embarrassing(at least to today's me) posts to Usenet. Then forums...and irc but that's never really changed how I write so much, other than the (temporary) discarding of a few rules and some capitalization to improve the flow, and little habits I picked up like: /me sighs and has to come up with an example.

    This fomula is very convenient cause it lets you express emotion in the first part and then immediately act on it in the second part. Typical in person, harder to convey in standard writing.

    Another benefit of writing is that when I write about subjects I'm interested in, I tend to learn about them by going through the writing process, and I get to do research from Google(and nowadays Wikipedia) every so often. It's all very good practice.
  • Whether you agree or disagree with the story, it's bound to change [slashdot.org] again in another five months.
  • by Cappy Red ( 576737 ) <miketoon@noSpam.yahoo.com> on Saturday February 07, 2004 @06:29AM (#8210752)
    The best way to improve one's writing is to write more. The rise of fan-fiction has just provided an attractive outlet to those who wouldn't otherwise be writing.

    I have always liked to read, but my lower education English classes did a fair job of beating a love of writing out of me. It wasn't until I accidently stumbled into and started writing fan-fiction online that I learned to enjoy it.

    Peer review helps, but the amount that it helps depends on the peer group. Books on writing can be good sources of ideas, but they can't improve your writing for you. If you want to write better, you have to write. Given time, you can't help but improve.

  • slashdot (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Spy Hunter ( 317220 ) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @07:46AM (#8210906) Journal
    I've often wondered what effect Slashdot has had on my writing skills. I post fairly often. When I first got my account I was playing the Karma game, so I went for +5 Funny all the time (it's the easiest to get, just be one of the first few posts and say something mildly amusing). But once I got 50 Karma, getting another +5 post just wasn't that rewarding. Since then I haven't been trying for high ratings, just good discussion.

    The moderation system definitely rewards humor. It also rewards clear and concise writing. I think writing tons of Slashdot posts has made my writing more concise. I blame this for my inability to meet page length requirements on my papers. I get right to the point, say everything I want to say in a few pages, and then can't fill the rest up with BS. I also think reading Slashdot has given me a better sense of how to be funny in writing (ignoring IN SOVIET RUSSIA and friends for the moment). I'm constantly looking at failed joke posts and saying "man, that could have been a +5 funny if only he had phrased that differently, or said this extra thing."

    Overall, I think Slashdot has given me experience in writing short, clear prose that may be useful in work communication or writing documentation. It hasn't helped with writing 10-page research papers, but once you're out of school nobody cares how many pages you write. I'm interested in what other people think of Slashdot's effect on writing skills. Have you noticed an effect it's had on your writing?

  • The problem with learning all of these grammar rules is that kids need to Think Different! Just like apple says.

    I'm not sure what I need to think about "Different" but I'm still working on that.

    Perhaps they meant "Think Differently"?
  • No surprise to me (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Rysc ( 136391 ) <sorpigal@gmail.com> on Saturday February 07, 2004 @11:05AM (#8211465) Homepage Journal
    I was a terrible speller up until I got online.

    I'm home schooled, and the way we did it I never was required to write papers by hand, or anything, and only once or twice on a computer. I know the letters, I read a lot, but my handwriting was horrible, my spelling was abysmal, and I didn't care. When did I ever use it? I told my parents that I couldn't spell and didn't care to learn to, it just wasn't something I needed.

    A few years later we got AOL, a terrible place to be sure. I already know many of the things one must know... like AOL sucks, only morons use l33t speak, etc..

    Being a Star Trek fan I went into the official Star Trek "The Bridge" chat room. I had an extreme fear of appearing foolish, and a worry about being understood. My grammar was as bad as my spelling, if not worse. I decided I just wouldn't say anything unless I was sure it was selled correctly. This lead to a /lot/ of occasions where I rephrased something so as to not use a word I could not spell for sure. But, being a big reader, and now having a motivation to learn how words were spelled, after a month or two my spelling was much improved. My grammar was stil not very good, but in a chat room you have little need for or chance to improve grammar.

    Fast forward a year... I got invovled in a gaming community with a series of message boards. There was a certain amount of role playing that went on, and wars of words between different teams was common. I began posting, and arguing, and in effect writing like crazy. I probbaly wrote an average of at /least/ 1000 words per day for six months or more, just on those boards.

    By the time I was halfway through those six months I was feared by all as a killer debater. Why? I marshalled my arguments well, turned phrases like nobodies business, and generally wrote up a storm.

    Since that time I have grown considerably more lax with regards to all aspects of writing. (My speed, first honed in chat rooms so as to be able to keep up with the rapid scrolling, is the only thing which is better than it was then.) But now, though I worry less about putting in all the punctuation, and am no longer a strict capitalization nazi, I am much more engaged in general about English. Now I ama connoisseur of the English language, and am somewhat fascinated by language in general.

    I attribute the majority of my skill and learning to being online and in a forum where I /want/ to write and write well.

A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that works.