The Changing
Face Of Literacy
The Secret
Language of
Factors In

Modern Storytellers


Written by Nicole Long

From the singing bards of the middle-ages to the inked pages of the New York Times, we have seen a tremendous change in how the human story is being told.  That evolution is not over yet. The invention of the blog has prompted yet another advancement in storytelling. There are approximately 190 million writers using blogs to spread news, morality, opinions and stories to a world-wide audience (Helmond, 2008).  Along with the vast numbers of storytellers, this free and easy-to-use software has allowed previously unheard demographics to have a voice. 

Teenagers make up approximately 50% of the blogosphere, (Huffaker & Calvert, 2005), women are also claiming 50%, (Herring, Kouper, Scheidt, and Wright, 2004), and there are other groups that have been traditionally without a voice that are now being heard in the blogosphere (Lenhart & Fox, 2006).  This is changing, not only the content of the stories but the language in which they are told.

Blogging teens are altering language with Netspeak, which combines both established language and adapted ones that include slang, acronyms, icons and avatars (Huffaker & Calvert, 2005). Acronyms such as ‘lol (laugh out loud)’ are commonplace and emoticons, which are expressed with images ‘J or punctuation ‘ ;) ’ play an extremely large role in teen blog communication.  We are also seeing words used more expediently and phonetically such as ‘c u latr’ (see you later).  This new form of language is constantly evolving and expanding to include more phrases and terminology.

Stories by the fireside have been replaced by social websites like blogs.

Content is also an important factor of this change in online literacy and it seems that women are having a big impact on what is being published (Herring, Kouper, Scheidt, and Wright, 2004).  While male authors continue to read and write traditionally news oriented blogs, female bloggers are more likely to express emotion,  write about personal issues, and use less aggressive language (Huffaker & Calvert, 2005).  Female bloggers tend to be motivated by the social aspect of blogging and are writing to share themselves with others so that changes the content of what they are writing about.

The disenfranchised are also using blogs.  A recent study showed that gays and lesbians are reading and commenting on blogs with a greater frequency than their heterosexual counterparts (Harris Interactive, 2008).  The blogosphere is also racially diverse (Lenhart & Fox, 2006).  These new groups are changing literacy with their own unique perspectives on the world as well as their personal interests. 

With all these new stakeholders in the human story we are seeing innovative ways of writing and fresh subject matter.  The democratizing force of the blog is forcing our language to adapt and us right along with it.