ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Does the 'information age' encourage or discourage writing ability?

Updated on September 2, 2012

Writing and new technology


Walk down any main street in Australia and chances are you will see someone sending a text message on their mobile telephone. People are messaging each other in school, in restaurants, on the bus; some even manage to fit it in while crashing their car. When we get home we rush straight to the computer to check our email. The postie, it seems, has been relegated to the delivery of bills and physical items that no-one has as yet figured out how to send across the internet. The information age is upon us and, like it or not, we are required to adapt to the new technologies. But has the convenience that modern communication brings come at a price? Some believe that the information age has had a detrimental affect on the writing ability of those who use it. Others may believe that it has actually enhanced it. The answer may not be as clearly defined as the supporters of each line of argument would have us believe.


Anyone wanting to discuss the topic of this essay must first clearly define what is meant by the term ‘writing ability’. Does it refer to the ability to write, that is, the physical act of writing, or does it mean the quality of what is actually produced? Both aspects are worthy of consideration and are more closely related than you might first think. For example, the knowledge that has come from emerging communication technologies has proven to be greatly beneficial to many people with disabilities. Writers unable to use their arms, such as May Cox Bilz (also an accomplished mouth-artist), can use a mouth stick and a keyboard to produce works that would otherwise have been impossible. People such as Mary have now been given the ability to write and to contribute to the world of literature without having to rely on someone to write for them. The information age has not reduced the ability to write, it has provided it.

Writing is some thing that has evolved over a very long time. It began as a collection of symbols that represented real life occurrences, morphed into systems such as cuneiform and hieroglyphs, and eventually became the alphabet system we are familiar with today. Although there was no distinct break between the different systems, each would have appeared as a major breakthrough for the people using them. Writers were able to capture and record more information; much of this early material was for administrative, commercial and religious purposes; and eventually, scholarly works began to appear as well. The media used to record this information has evolved along with the writing itself; Clay tablets, engravings in stone, animal skins, parchments, right up to the books and computers used to write this essay. As the writing became more complex, better ways to record it needed to be found. As the media improved, the writing could go that one step further. What we write and how we write has always been dependant on the available technology to record it.

In the 19th century, communication was revolutionised by the invention, and the gradual implementation, of the telegraph system. Messages were transmitted by Morse Code, a code consisting of a series of short and long electrical impulses. Cost was a major factor in sending messages, customers paid by the word. This meant that messages were formed at the expense of good grammar and, occasionally, readability. Although this medium was widely used for many years, there does not appear to have been a decline in the standard of writing as a result. It did, however, introduce the concept of altering the way language is written to take advantage of emerging technology.

In some ways, this experience is reflected in today’s use of text messaging on mobile telephones. It is a quick and simple system that allows text messages, formed by pressing the buttons on the keypad, to be passed from telephone to telephone. The busy lifestyles, and considerable impatience, of the users mean that short cuts are taken wherever possible. Messages are often formed using phonetic spelling and substitutions such as ‘r’ for ‘are’ and ‘u’ for ‘you’.

Electronic mail, or email, is now commonly used as an informal method for people who wish to communicate quickly or keep in touch with friends and more and more for business. It is cheap and relatively easy to access by a broad section of the community and carries the same text functionality as standard word processing systems. Despite this, the same short cuts being used in text messaging are used in emails. Initialisations such as ‘LOL’ for ‘laugh out loud’ and symbols such as :) to express emotion are becoming more and more common. Their use is now so wide-spread that they have formed a new language in their own right. Current studies have shown that conventions such as these are finding their way into student’s academic work. This is a clear indication of the affect that the information age is having on the structure of modern writing.

Can we say, however, that the trends discussed above are having an adverse affect on the quality of modern writing? Earlier in this essay we saw that writing evolved as knowledge grew and the technology provided a way to express those changes. In the past few hundred years, we have seen the styles and conventions of official, historical and fictional writing alter significantly. Compare these with the cuneiform and hieroglyphs of ancient civilisations. Perhaps all we are seeing is the same phenomenon but at a greatly accelerated rate. Modern society is lived at breakneck speed and people will find ways to speed up their informal communications with each other. Despite this, we still have editors to keep out the smiley faces.


As is often the case there are two ways of looking at this question. Technology has always been closely associated with the ability to write, that is, being able to record your message, what ever it is, for people to read later. It has provided the means for the art of writing to progress and become inclusive rather than exclusive. The information age has not degraded people’s ability to write. On the contrary, it has greatly increased the participation rate. The question of whether the standard of writing has suffered as a result is a different issue. Many would claim that language is in a period of decay; my belief is that it is evolving as it has for countless years. We should be careful not to confuse people taking shortcuts with attacks on the standard of writing and trust in the writer’s ability to separate informal and formal communication.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Brenton McDonald profile imageAUTHOR

      Brenton McDonald 

      8 years ago from Bendigo Australia

      Hi Lucia,

      I couldn't agree more. I spent 20 years in the Army and I can remember how good it was to get a letter when you were sitting in a hole in the ground somewhere.

    • AnnRandolph profile image


      8 years ago

      I hate the new texting words being used. Maybe I just need to accept the fact that a new language is being developed and flow instead of fight. I don't think kids can even write complete words anymore.

    • Lucia Wys profile image

      Lucia Wys 

      8 years ago from Spring

      Excellent point, the ways we communicate with each other has grown considerably and it is true that people who would have had difficulty or been unable to communicate effectively now have that opportunity, thanks to computers and technology.

      I do miss getting thank you cards, notes and letters via snail mail though. It seems as technology has grown these things have gone to the wayside in favor of emails. Emails are more convenient and faster than sitting down with a stationary set and writing out a note, letter or card but emails just don't provide you with the same emotional response as receiving a letter, note, or card in the mail.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)