The primary focus of the book, however, is the common allegation that texting is destroying people's ability to write and communicate legibly. Crystal points out that (1) similar phenomena have existed throughout English history, (2) many of the reports of linguistic corruption because of texting are overblown or patently untrue.
Turning the debate on its head, he argues that texting actually has a positive influence on language skills. (1) It's difficult to break the rules or abbreviate words without some awareness of what the spelling is normally, (2) fewer people use abbreviations in their texts than is popularly thought, (3) even teens completely understand the difference between formal and informal writing, and (4) any language activity is an opportunity for practice and creativity.
I enjoyed this book because it provided a perspective contrary to what seems faddish recently. I've become weary of dramatic Postman / McLuhan-esque jeremiads on how technology is destroying us. Crystal offered a realistic linguistic evaluation of what is going on, acknowledging that people will adapt and use technology in ways that are fundamentally the same. If you want to understand his argument of the book in a few minutes, read the first and last chapters.
Highlights that were interesting to me:
-Many of the "new" linguistic dynamics aren't new at all—similar things have been happening for more than 100 years.
-People thought that literacy was in terrible decline among young people as long ago as the 1920s!
-There are real, identifiable linguistic mechanisms at work that are mirrored in other languages. On the other hand, each language evidences distinctive mechanisms stemming from distinctive phenomena in that language.
-The book was yet another confirmation that the discipline (linguistics) is sufficient to explain a wide variety of phenomena, and that technology hasn't changed anything about the fundamental dynamics at work.