Perhaps a dozen times in the past four years I've been asked by radio shows (among them Day to Day and a live talk-radio show in Seattle) and print journalists ... to talk about why and how email and other digital writing forms (they especially want me to talk about IM) have ruined writing and reading for the new generations. ... They never assume that I might disagree with the premise. I tell them that they really don't want to talk to me because it's my view that writing has improved since the rise of electronic mail and since typing at our keyboards, of all sizes (even the tiniest), has become one of the two or three activities we do most often daily. ... The folks who want an English professor to comment on this expect me to whinge and express fear of writing's demise. Instead I express excitement about hope about the immediate future of writing.
I think that's right. Plenty of electronic communication is rotten and subliterate, but such has always been the way. The good news is that people who would never have put pen to paper in the days of hard copy, and who never owned a typewriter, now spend hours every day trying to communicate through the written word.
Beginners are rarely eloquent, and many have a long way to go before they write powerful or graceful prose. But I can only rejoice to see so many people getting practical experience in writing. Rather than lamenting the disappearance of the good old days, I'd like to see those concerned about young people's writing try to take advantage of students' passion for putting things in words, even when they're abbreviated and misspelled.