From My Bookshelf: Text Messages

Hey! A quick question!

This was a text message sent to me at 9:03 a.m. I didn’t see it until 10:30 a.m. as I went running, showered, and ate a leisurely breakfast in that time frame.

Would you do me a favor?

Again, another text message sent at 10:38 a.m. and I was driving. My phone was in my tote in the back seat. By the time I completed my errands, got home, and unloaded the car, I found the message at 1:04 p.m. 

Deb, can you help me?

This was text message sent to me after I had gone to bed and I found it the next morning. Imagine my frantic worry that this person needed my help and I had slept through the whole night.

Now it is known that it is rude to answer a question with another question, right? Answering a question with another question often steer conversations into different direction, avoiding the discomfort of having to answer the first question or intentionally diverting and creating a circle of nonsensical confusion.

But in the case of the above text messages, these questions beg to be answered with another question!

What is your question? What is the favor? What do you need help with?

Or, Are you okay?

It seems that text messages as a form of literacies can be transacted in a “oral” or “print” manner. These questions appeared to be tentatively inviting an “oral” conversation that happened to be in the format of print, but since I did not respond in an immediate “oral” way, the texts inherently became a matter of print exchanges over time. And print exchanges that begin with questions like these, to me, become a waste of time. And certainly, a source of stress and worry.

Thus, my one literacies pet peeve. Instead of asking a question for a question, favor, or help, the text messages could begin with the actual requests themselves, like the following:

Hey! I have books to drop off. I will do it on my way home and hope to catch you. If you’re not home, I’ll see you another time!

Next time you go to the bulk food store, will you pick up more chocolate chips for me?

Would you scan my documents for the job application? Let me know when I can swing by to use your printer.

While I am not a stickler for grammar, spelling, and other rules of composition in spontaneous pieces, wouldn’t, shouldn’t, couldn’t (my pet peeve!) writing in print that transcends over time call for us to be mindful of our audience—our readers—who so love and care very much for us?

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