Plans for a Scottish exam board to accept answers written in text message language have been praised by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
Dr Paul Edmondson, head of education at the trust in Stratford-upon-Avon, said he supported the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), which has angered the Plain English Campaign with its decision. The admission that phrases like "2b r nt 2b" or "I luv u" in exam papers will now be allowed comes in the wake of a report into Standard Grade English.
It revealed that examiners were becoming increasingly concerned with writing standards. Assessors said there was evidence this year that candidates’ quality of content was not supported by an "equivalent competence in the handling of the basics of written expression".
A spokesman for the SQA board said: "We give credit for the idea a candidate is expressing. But you would get more marks for that idea in perfect English than you would if you used text language.
"It would be much too harsh not to give credit for knowledge and attainment that is expressed in bad language."
Dr Edmondson said: "I appreciate what the exam board is saying. It is more important for them to get their ideas flowing rather than focusing on the language.
"I think the other thing is it probably makes examinations more enjoyable for the students. I guess examinations are much more fun across the border.
"Language always adapts depending on social pressures. I think it's always surprising when we see a famous thing or person in a unusual situation.
"I ’d rather students use text language and feel close to Shakespeare."
But even though he said he supported the announcement, Dr Edmondson said he felt there were a few issues.
"I do think it is ironic that in an exam in English literature, students are not expected to write in standard English," he said.
"The question really is, what are they being examined for and what are they being examined with?
"I thought they were being examined on their usage of English. I am surprised that the text spellings are not being corrected and are even being encouraged but I suppose what the examiners are encouraging is the language of self expression of the students, which is more important than accuracy.
"It is like saying to somebody 'go and paint a picture of a tree' and then them coming back with something very impressionistic."
The SQA said the guidelines applied to both Standard Grade and Higher exams, adding that the use of text language was present in a "very small" percentage of papers. "We want to make it clear that text message language is not considered appropriate," the SQA said.
Three years ago the exam board warned that the use of text language in exams was spreading in Scotland’s schools, and that it posed a barrier to attainment for pupils. Pass rates for Higher English, the exam level’s most popular subject, dropped two per cent to 64.1 per cent this year.
But language specialists have condemned the practice amid fears about the literacy levels of school leavers.
The Plain English Campaign said allowing the use of text jargon could limit candidates’ ability to express themselves in standard English.
Ben Beer, of the pressure group, said there was also a danger of candidates’ "street slang" not being understood by examiners.
He said: "It’s fine to use a kind of slang among friends. And if you are in a situation where both the writer and the examiner are understanding that same language, that’s OK.
"But in this situation with exams it’s probably not the case."