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Teen Texting Expert Insists on Being Letter-Perfect

William Glass III, a student at Leonardtown High School in Maryland was a finalist in the LG Texting Championship in New York on July 9. Video by Jenna Johnson/Washington Post and Courtesy of Glass, Edited by Anna Uhls/washingtonpost.com

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By Jenna Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 10, 2008

William Glass III, 14, sends text messages like a middle-aged, technology-clueless English teacher. Properly spelled words. Correct punctuation. Precise capitalization. Lengthy paragraphs. No shortened words.

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OMG!?! R U Serious?

"I don't know, I guess I just never started using the abbreviations, so I'm used to typing things out," Glass texted. "Also, everyone understands words, but everyone might not understand the abbreviations."

Even though Glass shuns shorthand, he embraces speed. At a pace that veteran secretaries might envy, Glass sends as many as 800 texts a month, his thumbs quickly flying across his phone's Qwerty, or mini-keyboard.

That speed and respect for the English language landed the St. Mary's County teenager in the LG National Texting Championship in New York last month.

In June, Glass logged on to the LG Electronics Web site for an online qualifying round. Phrases popped up on the screen, and Glass quickly typed them into his phone and messaged them to the cellphone company.

"I've never won a contest that anyone could enter," Glass texted. "Also, the website didn't say when the winners would be notified, and I assumed that they would tell me immediately after, if I was a winner."

But the next day, Glass received a voice mail from an LG representative saying that he was a semifinalist and inviting him and a parent to New York for the texting championship.

With less than a month until the showdown, Glass started practicing. He had the keyboard layout memorized, thanks to seventh-grade typing class, so he focused on increasing speed and remembering where the punctuation marks were.

"He developed crazy texting skills," said his mother, Tonya Glass. "Didn't know he had them." She said she is glad she signed up her son for an unlimited text-message plan.

It helped that Glass and his friends communicate nearly exclusively by text message to arrange trips to the mall, share funny stories, pass electronic notes during class and stay in touch in the summer.

"It's the only way we communicate," Glass's friend Desirae Holland, 15, said in an uncharacteristic cellphone interview. "I text 'Willum' all the time. I'm actually texting him right now."

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