EVOLUTION? Or laziness? Yes, languages evolve. The pace is different, however, for polite company and for business.

But junior high and high school teachers nationwide say they see a troubling trend: [Instant messenger shortcuts] have become so commonplace in children's social lives that the techno spellings are finding their way into essays and other writing

"The IM-speak is so prevalent now," said Austin, a language arts teacher at Stonewall Jackson Middle School in Orlando. "I'm always having to instruct my students against using it."

Vicki A. Davis, a high school teacher at Westwood Schools in Camilla, Ga., said she even finds the abbreviated words in term papers.

"I'm Southern, but I wouldn't use the sayings, "squeal like a pig" or "kick the bucket," in formal writing (because) some people may not understand," Davis said. "IM-speak should be treated the same way."

Some people are more accepting.

Some educators, like David Warlick, 54, of Raleigh, N.C., see the young burgeoning band of instant messengers as a phenomenon that should be celebrated. Teachers should credit their students with inventing a new language ideal for communicating in a high-tech world, said Warlick, who has authored three books on technology in the classroom.

And most avoid those pitfalls once they enter college, said Larry Beason, director of freshman composition at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, Ala.

"Some of the same kids that I teach now were probably guilty of techno spellings in high school," Beason said. "But most students realize that they need to put their adolescent spellings behind them by the time they get to college."

Once again, it's on higher education to enforce the standards the common schools have failed to enforce?

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