Question Sheet: The Snappy Lingo of Instant Messages


Before reading:

  1. What is instant messaging?
  2. Give three examples of shortcuts or abbreviations that kids might use in an e-mail or text message to save having to spell out the entire phrase.

During reading:

  1. What is linguistics?
  2. How does instant messaging differ from e-mail?
  3. What surprised Naomi Baron about the IM messages that she studied?
  4. Why is English so widely used on the Internet?
  5. What fraction of all Internet users are non-native English speakers?

After reading:

  1. What is a blog? How might the widespread use of blogs change communication and the language people use to communicate with each other? See (Tech Station Central) or

    (Business Week).

  2. Why do you think young people feel more comfortable with IM than many older

    people do?

  3. What are the pros and cons of the introduction of slang words into the English language?
  4. With typed words, it’s hard to convey emotion. How might computers in the future help allow the expression or communication of emotion? See Association for Artificial Intelligence).
  5. Why do you think IM and Internet communication lend themselves to the development and use of slang?


The International Telecommunication Union is documenting the spread and use of the Internet in developing countries around the world. Go to International Telecommunication Union), select a country from the listed case studies, and summarize how the development of the Internet is proceeding in that country.


  1. Write a poem in the form of a text message that contains no more than 160 characters. See
  2. Select a page from a play by William Shakespeare. See (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). Find some words on this page that people no longer commonly use. Look them up in a dictionary if you’re not sure what they mean. In each case, what word might someone use today to express the same idea? See the William Shakespeare Elizabethan Dictionary at


    (William Shakespeare info). Translate a passage into what it might look like as a text or instant message.


A cryptogram is a puzzle in which each letter in a sentence is replaced by a different letter of the alphabet. The letters in the cryptogram are called “cipher” letters, and the letters that you write down are called “plain” letters.

Think of what the sentence below might be saying and look for letter patterns that match the words that you think might be there. Decipher the secret message.


For the answer, see (National Security


Learn more about codes and ciphers at (National Security Agency).