Social media sites damage writing skills according to Cambridge professor

Posted on January 28, 2013


A professor at Cambridge University has joined the debate about the effects of social media on students’ writing skills. According to Professor David Abulafia, a leading historian, there has been a marked decrease in essay-writing skills since sites like Facebook and Twitter became popular.

Students, argues Professor Abulafia, no longer have skills such as the ability to set out a strong argument in essay form. The Professor believes sites including Twitter and Facebook, which encourage users to enter condensed ‘status’ messages, have led to problems when students attempt to compose longer pieces of writing.

Spelling has also become an issue of focus. ‘Text speak’, such as substituting ‘u’ for ‘you’ or ‘y’ for ‘why’, has become widely used in mobile phone texts and online. However, examiners are reporting that students have also been using this kind of spelling in exams, and there have been calls for examiners to mark students’ work on writing ability as well as including all the appropriate information in essays.

Professor Abulafia’s concerns are echoed by some of the UK’s other universities, including Essex University, which now provides a guide to writing for new students.

Of course, there are many places online that demand the use of traditional writing skills. Anyone providing an SEO copywriting service, for example, knows the importance of being able to write fluently. Many companies have suffered as a result of having poor spelling and grammar on their websites, showing that the demand for good quality writing still exists online as well as offline.

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