Saint Mary's University Writing Centre

Halifax, NS

Teaching Register

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Jennifer MacDonald


I recently came across this article from the BBC: “Slang banned from Croydon School to improve Student Speech” and immediately did a face palm on behalf of those school administrators. Not only does this make no sense from the perspective of teenage psychology (forbidden fruit becomes all the more tantalizing), but it ignores some of the most basic aspects of sociolinguistics, and is a waste of a wonderful teachable moment.

The idea of register is at the heart of most societal hand-wringing about youth today and the downfall of the English language. “Kids today don’t know how to speak/read/write/spell/communicate!” “They only know how to communicate in slang and txt speak!” ETC. But there’s nothing inherently wrong with slang and textspeak. They are simply examples of an informal register of speech, when used in the appropriate time and place among a the speech community of one’s peers there’s nothing…

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