Every few months or so, we read about some freaked out reporter/columnist/pundit/politician complaining about how the internet and texting are destroying kids’ ability to write. Yet, pretty much every study on the subject has found the opposite to be true. Study after study after study after study after study have all found that kids today are better writers than in the past.
Clive Thompson writes about even more research on the subject, talking to a professor who suggests that, rather than “the death of writing” this is a renaissance:
“I think we’re in the midst of a literacy revolution the likes of which we haven’t seen since Greek civilization.”
The studies indicate that because everyone is doing so much more writing in these computerised days, people generally are getting better at it (the next time you read some poor writing online, remember that without the internet those people probably wouldn’t be reading recreationally, let alone writing). Not just that, kids who grow up doing it are even better at judging the different audiences for different communication styles and adjusting their writing to suit the perceived audience (aka the rhetorical skill of kairos).
There is an associated philosophical shift – more and more people are writing for an audience rather than writing as simple correspondents to the people they are engaging in discussion/debate – they know that many more people will read their words than just those directly involved. Indeed, one study reports that some college students are far less enthusiastic about class writing assignments because only the teacher will see the work.
Many commentors on the Techdirt post mention that their writing may have improved, but their penmanship has badly deteriorated since they switched to computers. I know that I can’t handwrite for very long any more without getting hand cramps, and I used to be one of those people that wrote pages and pages for essays in exams. Does anybody here still do lots of handwriting?