Me, Multi Modal and the Trials of Texting

I like to think of myself as a modern woman, down with the crew, in the zone. A mother moving with the times and comfortable in the 21st century. Hey, I sold computers and computer software for more that a decade. I have no excuse and, Mister, I don’t need one.

I’m the parent who identifies with her daughters’ desires/wants/concerns and even occasionally contributes to a good outcome or at least puts some perspective on a bad one.

I use email, Skype, text (whatsapp as well since last week) and of course FaceBook to stay in touch, literally and metaphorically with my progeny without, I hope, morphing into Regina George’s mother.

In the last few weeks I’ve been helping a student find arguments in favour of texting over the spoken word for her GCSE module (English exam for 15/16 year olds) on multi modal language.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, multi modal refers to any form of communication over and above actually chatting to someone, aloud, face to face. Examples include magazines where pictures are combined with words; websites (as above but also including video clips); films (words, music, moving image and sounds); emails (you get the idea); social media and the ubiquitous text message.

My student had chosen text messaging as her vehicle to grade perfection. It is her intent to argue that text is a valid language in today’s society and that the art of texting, when perfected, can replace, nay improve upon, a boring old phone call or group discussion even surpassing in originality the semiotics (hand gestures, facial expression, tone of voice etc) and paralanguage (gasps, sighs and chuckles) that are so intrinsic to a lovely conversation.

Texting she claims is direct, quick, international and gets over the problem of people talking at the same time.

Emoticons can replace a smile 🙂 or a tear 😦 and if something is utterly ‘hilar’ 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 or you find yourself in the midst of a crying jag 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 these little coloured faces can say it all.

Abbreviations, acronyms, letter substitution and vowel omission speed up the conversation and sociolects, just as in the real world, become common place.

I wd lv 2 no wot u think bout dis so fa LOL.

Gangsta enough for you?

And if something is really important I can emphasise the point. GOTTA NO ASAP WAT U TINK. No need for shouting anymore.

Sounds good to me. As I said at the top, I’m cool. I can text with the best of them. Or can I?

screen shot #1
screen shot #1


7.54 am

I’m texting my hair colourist to see if I can get a quick splash of blonde to my roots (a t being the parting and hairline) before a girlie weekend in Barcelona.

And I have also been instructed by Daughter #1 to beg for a Saturday appointment for her on one of her weekends back in Blighty. Her plane lands at 1.00 pm.

K is next to L on every QWERTY keyboard.

I have typed this without my glasses. Probably didn’t need to mention that.


8.59 am

screen shot #2 (mrscarmichael)
screen shot #2 (mrscarmichael)

I can take a joke and laugh at myself with the best of them. And I can also understand that Chloe cannot comprehend anyone flying home from Mexico City for a weekend. Particularly because she didn’t know Alex was even going. It was all a bit of a rush.

And I’m struggling with all of it myself, truth be told.

I now refrain from pointing out that she may herself need spectacles or an English Language for Dummies because I do feel I have covered a number of the questions asked already.

Full head (major blonde), half head (not so blonde). This is in case any men are still reading. And thank you if you are. It gets better.

screen shot #3
screen shot #3


11.44 am

Ok I get it. Late Saturday afternoon is out and with the best will in the world, a following wind and the fact that Daughter #1is only bringing hand luggage so no delay waiting for a suitcase at a Heathrow baggage carousel, she won’t get to Chloe’s by 2.00pm even if her BA flight manages to touch down on time.

Chloe doesn’t usually work weekends. She beautifies from home and her home is currently under demolition/reconstruction. Chloe also has three children under six. Her husband is called Roy.

Missing portion – Chloe goes on to tell me that her salon area is doubling as the temporary kitchen.   Editor’s note – Added for the sake of authenticity.

But now she can do 3.00pm! Wonders. She’s had a change of heart and understands we wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important.


15.42 pm

screen shot #4
screen shot #4

I offer her a bone in the guise of not having to blow dry Daughter’s golden locks. It’s a massive time saving and I am anticipating a modicum of jet lag and ill temper on the offspring’s part.

Yes, I am still coming this Thursday at 11.30… I thought this was set in stone.

Who the f@£$ is Kate?

There is no Kate, never was and almost certainly never will be. Not from my text happy fingers and failing eyes.

And Chloe, I’m sorry but you know when Alex wants to come. And, fyi, she still wants a full head of blonde highlights or a half if you only have time for that and no blow dry, again to save you time.

I am now hiccuping with laughter. Tears are streaming from my eyes.

And just because I really believe there is room for more confusion here I am coming at 11.30 this Thursday.        

final screen shot (mrscarmichael)
final screen shot (mrscarmichael)


some time after 15.42 pm

My hair colourist tells me she is also laughing (because of course I cannot hear her laughing) but also puts the blame firmly on my shoulders.       

She thinks me incapable of conveying my message via the language of text and should be banned from further activity.

Roy, the husband, thinks his wife is having a fit of hysterics and she attempts to explain what all the mirth is about.

The final text from Chloe is received a couple of days later and mitigates, I believe, my incompetence as she seems to have lost my good old fashioned cheque. Again.

As you all know I did make my flight to Catalonia (Barcelona, Three Girls Came, Saw, Conquered and Made It Home As Well) and did no texting while I was there.

This whole debacle of a 21st century multi modal conversation took upward of eight hours to conclude. We spoke and laughed during it but never to or with each other.

How long would it have taken if I’d rung her?  But we both know that she never answers the phone.                                                                                                   

As for my student, I hope her timed essay went well, she had all the necessary arguments, and I agree that literacy in text speak is crucial to being a fully functioning member of today’s society. But I would miss grievously, my chats over coffee and/or a glass of wine. I could not give those up without a fight.

Speaking, to my four daughters, means text and FaceBook.

Me: “Have you spoken to P…….?”

Any daughter: “Yep.”

Me: “Did you ask if she’s coming over?

Any daughter: “Yes.”

Me: ” And is she?”

Any daughter: “Don’t know, she hasn’t text back yet.”

I rest my case.

16 thoughts on “Me, Multi Modal and the Trials of Texting

  1. Um, this is my favorite post. Spot-on. I might have to do my own post in response or as a result of thinking about this post!

  2. This is great, Mrs. C. You almost lost me at semiotics and paralanguage, but in the end I was howling. I only rarely text–it’s too hard to do in Japanese–so I will don my curmudgeon cap and say that I don’t think “text” should be used as a verb. Humbug.

  3. Too funny! I am hopeless with text because I can’t free myself from long words and punctuation. What can I say? It’s an academic thing. I do seem to get more actual words out of my son via some other medium than face to face, where the grunt is standard communicating procedure. So I’m grateful for technology in this respect! 🙂

    1. And even when I use full words I cannot seem to make myself understood!
      I did however impress myself getting the ‘screen shots’ and moving them via iPhoto to my post.
      There’s no beginning to my talents. I should get a life.

  4. I started with a few of these… 😉 😀

    Then… as you suggested, we of the male variety got mercifully lost… it turned to some of these… 😦 😦 …

    But… eventually I managed one of these!! 😛

  5. Oh, aj, I knew it was going to be a female centric post, given the content, but thank you for persevering. And an A* awarded to you, Sir for your appropriate use of emoticons 🙂 🙂 🙂

  6. If you should ever get a text from my mother, which is unlikely but you never know, you won’t be able to understand a word of it because she makes up her own text abbreviations and the whole thing is usually totally incomprehensible.

      1. No, it’s not that. Our local paper has a column in which they publish texts to the editor and she reads that and then creates her own version of words. Maybe you need to get some specs!!

now it's your turn

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s