social mediaI love a good counter-intuitive thesis and there is a fine one in this morning’s Financial Times. Simon Kuyper argues, convincingly, I feel, that the social media have improved writing. E-mail, he declares, kicked off an unprecedented expansion in writing, producing the most literate age in history. The use of the social media increases every month. Indeed, ‘writing is overtaking speech as the most common form of interaction’. The UK’s communications regulator, Ofcom, says that ‘Britons now text absent friends and family more often than they speak to them on the phone or in person.’ To those who bemoan the decline of language he points out that such laments have been voiced since at least AD63. He cites a study that suggest texting improves children’s reading ability. Yes, punctuation and spelling are neglected, but most children grasp that the genre has different rules from school essays (older generations have greater difficulty in adjusting to punctuation-free, abbreviated text language). Texts, blogs, e-mail and Facebook are, he insists ‘making journalism, books and business communications more conversational.’ And ‘conversational prose improves your chances of being heard and understood.’ Mostly, he concludes, ‘social media have done wonders for writing’. After all, George Orwell’s ideal was writing that sounded like speech. Good fun.