The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Msg: short, swift & soulless
- Experts point to boon of writing letters, essays

'Hi ma. How r u' I'm ok. Pls cal 2nite.'

Banani Ghosh, a resident of a government housing estate on EM Bypass, receives such messages on her mobile phone at least thrice a week from her 13-year-old son Ricky, who studies in a boarding school in Vijayawada.

'Ricky has been there for the past two years. I have received only two or three letters from him all this while,' laments Banani. The rest of the communication is all on cell phone ' SMS or call.

At 40, Banani, a senior employee with a nationalised bank, appreciates the advantages of SMS and e-mail, but parents like her are also growing increasingly wary of the effect it's having on their children's communication ' and emotive ' skills.

The dangers range from spelling mistakes to a disregard for syntax and grammar, dropping words like 'dear' or 'respected' while addressing elders to an emotional alienation from generation-ex.

Alarmed at this growing trend, teachers, heads of schools, academicians, language experts and city-based NGOs have decided to launch extensive campaigns advocating letter-writing.

'Every growing child must learn the art of letter-writing, not just in school, but also at home,' emphasises Sunanda Sanyal, linguist and former teacher of English literature at Calcutta and Burdwan universities.

'Personal essays are an important component of literature. Children with the potential to become writers cannot cultivate the habit of writing good essays if they constantly use telegraphic language,' he observed.

Letter-writing helps children express their thoughts in a systematic way, feels Gillian Rosemary Hart, principal, Welland Gouldsmith School.

'The modern trend is peculiar, since children are communicating more than ever before ' thanks to SMS and e-mail ' but what they are writing is flat and devoid of emotion, which is a matter of concern,' she added.

Some schools have started discouraging students from using 'short forms'.

At La Martiniere for Girls, says principal H. Peacock, teachers deal firmly with students using SMS abbreviations in their answer-scripts.

'Students are given a wide range of imaginative letter-writing topics,' added Peacock, to encourage creativity.

Language teachers of other prominent schools, like Gokhale Memorial, South Point and St John's Diocesan, are encouraging students to write more 'personal letters'.

Asian Friendship Society, Calcutta, an NGO, has now decided to organise a discussion-cum-counselling session and workshops with parents on the trend through the summer vacations.

'Schools alone cannot arrest the trend, even guardians need to be motivated,' said Asian Friendship Society members Arun Jalan and Anindita Banerjee.

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