The only way to tell whether kids today are really less coherent or literate than their great-grandparents is to compare student writing across the past century, The Globe and Mail reports. Tricky, but precisely what Andrea Lunsford, a scholar of writing and rhetoric at Stanford University, managed to do by collecting 877 “freshman composition” papers from from 2006 and comparing their error rate to those in papers from 1986, 1930 and 1917. If the digital age had hurt students’ prose, the error rate in spelling, grammar and word use should have increased. It hadn’t. Indeed, the average rate of errors had barely budged in almost a century, from 2.11 errors per 100 words in 1917 to 2.26 words today. What’s more, there were “almost no instances” of the smileys or LOL-style short forms that have supposedly metastasized everywhere…

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staff and wire services reports