Teenagers write more now than ever before. Just think about it; when you were a teenager you probably only wrote at school, doing your homework and then on thank-you letters your Mum made you write. All your other communication was spoken.
But things have changed significantly and dramatically. Nowadays, teenagers write vast amounts. Not only do they write at school, they also write text messages, email messages, notes in social networking groups, blog postings, forum entries and so on. Teenagers have never communicated so much in writing.
And that means it is going to have a real impact on all our futures. What’s revealing, according to a new report on teenage attitudes to writing, is that teenagers do not perceive all this written communication they do as writing. To them it is all just chatting to people.
Different writing styles
Indeed, most teenagers have different writing styles – one for their person to person communications worlds and another for formal writing at school. But the subtle perceptual change that writing online isn’t writing means that the words on this page will be thought of differently depending on your age. And that means virtually every business online is going to have to adapt. As those teenagers enter the jobs market, they are going to find a disconnect between the kind of writing that all businesses engage in and the type of writing they perceive as the online norm.
Businesses need to write more informally to engage younger people – not to dumb anything down in any way, but to actually connect with them. Otherwise they will pass you by, ignore the jobs you have on offer and set up in competition with your business, engaging all those other people who no longer see writing as writing.
Teenagers love writing online, the report shows; and the fact they have an audience is a significant motivator in encouraging them to write more. But because they don’t perceive it as writing, the online writing they will do is bound to be different to what someone my age is used to.
Adapt or die
Written communication has been much slower to change than the spoken word, which evolves rapidly. Now that teenagers have made the switch in thinking as to what constitutes written communication you can expect to see much more rapid changes in text based materials. And that means your business must adapt; otherwise you will be speaking a foreign language in your own country.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+