Web English Class

Writing (English composition) classes should include web writing (comments, etc.) given its new primacy in written communication.

Web literacy isn’t just about understanding how the web and internet work. It’s also about how to participate. It seems reasonable that school curricula be shifted to reflect the changing communication media of the day. One of the key changes in modern reading habits is, now more than ever, we’re reading amateur writing.

Primarily, comments on websites are written by amateurs, and they make up a substantial portion of our reading diet, at least online reading. But what percentage of us has ever been formally educated in how to write comments online? Putting aside astroturf groups, the number is likely very tiny. Modern education should focus on the use of language where it is most common, and that should undoubtedly include online commentary.

Now, there are probably folks who did learn how to write an e-mail in school at some level. It’s not clear how well the advice and instruction they received matches the actual use of e-mail. But online writing requires some instruction of its own.


One of the biggest issues with online writing is how links are formed. In too many cases, links have non-descriptive text. These days not so much “click” type labels, but often things like a raw link to a YouTube video that doesn’t give you any indication what it is. Or links to pictures that describe the person’s reaction rather than the content (“OMG!!!!!”).


In the same vein, article submissions that contain editorial titles, and other similar faux pas, are common. While this common issue teaches well the aphorism, “you can’t judge a link by its title,” it doesn’t lower the friction of online discourse. English classes should emphasize proper title construction.

Smartphone typos

The boom of odd phrasing will hopefully be short-lived as technology improves. But, for now we see quite a lot of word substitutions that are due to smartphones.

The boom of of pain will hopefully be short lived as technology improves. But, for now we see quite a lot of word substitutions that are die to smartphones.

At issue here is the interface friction required to correct (or see) typos. Not sure what English classes can do except to encourage care in writing.

Tone of comments

Forums can turn ugly pretty quick. Maybe English teachers can find some way to teach the youth not to devolve into screaming barbarians as easily? I don’t know, but it’s worth a shot. Of course, the other side of that is building a standard set of comment tools to empower users to avoid fraught conversations online.

And so on. As so much of our daily reading is now in the form of comments, it would be nice to see the form taught in schools. On the other side, it would be interested to see some studies about online culture and inculcation into the norms of a new online subculture.


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