Rita Howell’s column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Refusal to text leaves phone available for talk

I don’t text. I realize that puts me at a disadvantage if I want to communicate with most people under age 30 and many people over 30.

It’s by far the communication medium of choice for a great many people…people who are driving down the road, sitting in a restaurant, waiting in line, working in offices, listening to classroom lectures. The ubiquitous text message can be transmitted silently so the only person who knows about it is the recipient.

Last week I was anxiously awaiting Taylor Ivy’s column via e-mail. Taylor has worked for the past year as an intern at The Panolian and has agreed to continue writing a weekly column now that she has moved on to Ole Miss where she is a freshman studying journalism. She had promised to send the column by last Tuesday at noon, but it did not come.

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So I made the rounds in the office to see how I could get in touch with her.

Emily Williams is a multi-tasker who promptly sent a text-message to Taylor, threatening her if she did not hurry up and send the aforementioned column. Turns out she had sent it days earlier, but it was somehow floating around out there in cyberspace. A second attempt was successful.

All of this was handled as Taylor was sitting in a class and Emily was answering the office phone, helping customers, and writing news stories.

So practical, so helpful, so why don’t I want to learn to send a text message?

I’m protesting the damage to the English language.

Texting is done by abbreviating words and using short cuts. I’m obsessive about certain aspects of grammar and punctuation, and it would take me too long to type out a message that would suit me. I’m better off phoning or sending an e-mail.

For example, lately I’ve noticed that people no longer punctuate a.m. and p.m. with periods, as is proper. You can see how I could drive myself crazy punctuating messages that are intended for speedy communication, not literary perfection.

So my cellphone will continue to be reserved for the purpose for which it was invented.
It’s a phone.