Young people today write more than any generation before them

Yeah, I figured that title might get your attention (or the attention of a search query). Young people today write more than any generation before them. Not something you hear from educators much these days.

Kids today can't write. Right? I think that has been said a lot over the years and over the centuries. The culprit the past 50 years has probably been technology. Movies, TV, videogames, the Internet. Twitter tweets, Facebook status posts, blogs, PowerPoint bullets, text messages.

Not according to Andrea Lunsford, professor of writing and rhetoric at Stanford University. She organized the Stanford Study of Writing to look at college students' prose.

The study looked at about 15,000 student writing samples - in-class writing, formal essays, journal entries, emails, blog posts, and chat sessions.

And what did she find?   "I think we're in the midst of a literacy revolution the likes of which we haven't seen since Greek civilization."

Technology is reviving writing, not killing it. How? Literacy in new directions.

One thing she found was that young people today write more than early generations because they do all that socializing online and most of that involves writing text. Of all the writing that the Stanford students did, a stunning 38 percent of it took place out of the classroom?life writing, as Lunsford calls it.

Okay, she hasn't convinced you.

How about this? Pre-Internet, the claim is that most writing that occurred was because of a school assignment or as part of a job. The Stanford Study students were very adept at kairos.
kairos: The opportune occasion for speech. The term kairos has a rich and varied history, but generally refers to the way a given context for communication both calls for and constrains one's speech. Thus, sensitive to kairos, a speaker or writer takes into account the contingencies of a given place and time, and considers the opportunities within this specific context for words to be effective and appropriate to that moment. As such, this concept is tightly linked to considerations of audience (the most significant variable in a communicative context) and to decorum (the principle of apt speech).
Do you agree? Are your students good at assessing audience and adapting their tone and technique to best get their point across? Clive Thompson writing for Wired agrees with the study.
We think of writing as either good or bad. What today's young people know is that knowing who you're writing for and why you're writing might be the most crucial factor of all.
Check out the study at Then you can post your comments here. Or email Professor Lunsford.


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