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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 November, 2004, 00:13 GMT
Children to write slang letters
Alan Duncan MP, dressed as Ali G
Is it 'cos I is an MP?: Tory politician Alan Duncan has tried Ali G slang
Slang words are to be allowed for the first time in a UK-wide letter-writing competition for schoolchildren.

An "urban music star" - identity not yet revealed - is expected to be a judge of the 28th annual Royal Mail Young Letter Writers Competition.

The contest, for five to 11 year olds, is designed to "bring letter writing in line with the communication trends of children today".

The results should "express the sender's personality".


Common turns of phrase like "chav", "as if", "minging" and the perennial "cool" might be expected to feature heavily.

The terms "innit", immortalised by spoof rapper Ali G, and "yeah but, no but", favoured by Vicky Pollard of BBC TV's Little Britain, are also among modern youth catchphrases.

However, even in the age of e-mails and text messages, certain competition rules apply.

Carrie Holder, Royal Mail's social policy manager, said: "If a child's hero is Eminem we would expect the language used to be very different to a formal letter to Tony Blair, for example.

"It is important that children recognise the value of letter writing, whether it's to inform, advise or respond effectively or to convey feelings and emotions.

Vicky Pollard of BBC's Little Britain
Yeah but, no but: Will children take to letter-writing?

"We hope the function of letter writing will act as a stimulus to further in-school discussions, engaging children in debate relating to the pleasure that can be experienced through sending and receiving a letter."

Apart from the hoped-for musician, the judging panel is made up of literary experts.

Nigel Hall, professor of literacy education at Manchester Metropolitan University, said: "The most powerful letters from children capture a reader's interest by being original, creative and often include a touch of humour. These are the letters that win competitions."

Entries are accepted in formats including audiotape, Braille, handwritten and typed.

Last year's winner, Jack Smoothy, wrote a touching letter to his teaching assistant that made her cry.

Last week, examiners working for the OCR board complained that some A-level and GCSE students were using colloquialisms in exams.

But Viv Bird, social inclusion director at the National Literacy Trust said: "Where appropriate, allowing modern forms of communication styles will attract children who might not otherwise have participated."

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