Texting employs a whole new form of self-expression: a hybrid language of acronyms, abbreviations, grammatical shortcuts, and homophones that comprise "techspeak".

It's great for rapid communication among friends or on Twitter or Facebook, but does constant use of techspeak in texting and social media sites affect grammar skills?

Getting to the bottom of the relationship between text messaging and English grammar skills was the goal of a study conducted by Pennsylvania State University communications researcher S. Shyam Sundar and his colleague Drew Cingel. They wrote:

"The perpetual use of mobile devices by adolescents has fueled a culture of text messaging, with abbreviations and grammatical shortcuts, thus raising the following question in the minds of parents and teachers: Does increased use of text messaging engender greater reliance on such 'textual adaptations' to the point of altering one's sense of written grammar?"

Their findings, published in the journal New Media & Society, indicate that tweens – sixth, seventh and eighth graders – who regularly send text messages and use techspeak tend to have low scores on age-appropriate grammar tests.

"Results show broad support for a general negative relationship between the use of techspeak in text messages and scores on a grammar assessment," the study said.

The problem is that students are in their formative learning years in middle school, which leads one to wonder how these students will fare when writing research papers and essays in high school and college.

As the researchers wrote, "Routine use of textual adaptations by current and future generations of 13-17 year-olds may serve to create the impression that this is normal and accepted use of the language and rob this age group of a fundamental understanding of standard English grammar."

Grammar and college students

The infographic below provides some interesting data on the subject, including reference to an article published in Canada's Globe and Mail that said texting also is killing college students' grammar skills.

According to the news story, professors and administrators at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia said emoticons and truncated and butchered words such as 'cuz' show up in student writing.

What about at Saint Leo?

English instructor Elisabeth Aiken does believe that texting may be symptomatic of declining literacy in society in general. "However, even though I do see some text-speak creep into papers, honestly, it's infrequent. Most students know better than to turn in academic papers with texting abbreviations in them."

English colleague Valerie Kasper agrees. While she doesn't see it much in papers, she does see some techspeak from time to time online in discussion boards and in emails.

"I can't attribute it to texting alone, but I think texting helps it become a habit, and that habit sometimes accidently ends up on paper, or students start to believe some of their own abbreviations, such as "thru" being an actual word."

Keeping formal writing techspeak free

So how can you make sure your papers are techspeak free?

Professional English tutor Colleen Shanahan from the Learning Resource Center offers a few tips:

  • Take advantage of available tutoring services and have a trained set of eyes review your work.

  • Read your work out loud. You'll be surprised at what you can catch yourself.

  • Run your paper through an online grammar checker such as Grammarly. All Saint Leo students have free access to Grammarly@edu

  • Have a friend or classmate read your paper.

  • If you know certain words are your downfall, use the autocorrect feature in Word to automatically change any inadvertent "till" to "until" or "thru" to "through."

Good news

Correct spelling, proper punctuation, and precise grammar are critical for success in the working world.

And the good news is that even the texting tweens who were surveyed for Sundar's study, agree. Eighty-six percent said that having good writing skills is definitely important for success in life.

And the remaining 14 percent?

:) TTFN!


What do you think? Does texting weaken grammar skills?


Other posts you may be interested in reading:

A Punctuation Cheat Sheet: Are You Guilty Of These 10 Common Errors?

30 Embarrassing Grammar Gaffees You Must Avoid -- And Why

It's National Punctuation Day! Are You Excited?

Student Success Tips: Editing Your Paper In 10 Steps

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