College professors are anything but LOL at their students' recent writing habits.
Not only are instructors not laughing out loud (shortened to LOL in text messages and online chats) at the technology-oriented shorthand that has seeped into academic papers, many of them also sternly telling students to stop using the new language even in less formal writing.
"Despite the fact that I happen to be perfectly capable of reading any incoherent drivel you may send to my (e-mail) inbox directly from your phone keypad, 'wut up ya I cnt make it 2 clss lol' is insanely unprofessional," reads the syllabus of Alejo Enriquez, an instructor at California State University-East Bay.
Faculty members increasingly have expressed irritation about reading acronyms and abbreviations they often do not understand, said Sally Murphy, a Cal State East Bay professor and director of the university's general-education program. One e-mail to a professor started with, "Yo, teach," she said.
"It has a real effect on the tone of professionalism," said Murphy, who also has seen younger instructors use the shorthand. "We tell them very specifically how this is going to affect them in life. It's kind of like wearing their jeans below their butt. They're going to lose all credibility."
A 2008 survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that two-thirds of middle- and high-school students had accidentally used instant-messaging-style words in their work, while a quarter admitted using emoticons (cartoon faces made out of punctuation marks) in assignments.
The breakdown in language skills is an odd phenomenon given how much time children and young adults spend in front of the computer, said Marcia Linn, who teaches about technology in education at the University of California- Berkeley's graduate school of education.
"Writing has actually increased as an activity," she said. "Standards are another issue."
University of California-Berkeley professor Ken Goldberg said he has not received assignments using the texting terms, but said he has had trouble getting used to the casual tone of e-mails he receives from students.
"They don't even resort to the niceties," said Goldberg, director of the Berkeley Center for New Media. "They just jump right in as if they were texting me. I don't want to sound like I'm some sort of Victorian schoolmarm, but it's an adjustment."
Goldberg noted that although his 6-year-old child spells out complete words in text messages, he received a message from his 70-year-old mother — a retired reading teacher — that read, "luv 2 u."