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Texting: Does it Really Hurt Students’ Grammar?

texting

Despite popular misconceptions, research doesn’t indicate that texting hurts students’ grammar or literacy. Photo by Adan Garcia via Flickr.

No LOL Matter: Tween Texting May Lead to Poor Grammar Skills” said Science Daily. “OMG! Tween texting may lead to poor grammar” proclaimed ChicagoNow.

They were both reporting on a study published in the journal New Media and Society that found tweens’ use of techspeak correlated with negative scores on a grammar assessment. It was an easy study for the mainstream press to run with, as it confirmed what many people already think — but are the headlines accurate?

Linguists, professionals dedicated to the scientific study of language, don’t think so.

Josef Fruehwald, a Ph.D. candidate in linguistics  at the University of Pennsylvania, found fault with the study’s definition of grammar and the test the study used to judge students’ grammar ability.

There is research backing up Fruehwald’s position.

A 2009 study in the Journal of Literacy Research of college students who used text speak found that it did not hurt their literacy as compared to students who did not use text speak.

Text speak, or techspeak, is the use of numbers and shortened alternative spellings of words. Text speak may be declining with the increased use of smart phones that have full QWERTY keyboards.

A 2011 study of 10- to 12-year-old Australian children’s text-messaging practices found a positive correlation between children’s use of text-message abbreviations and general spelling ability.

Professor Clare Wood, the lead author of a study presented at the British Psychological Society’s Developmental Section Conference, said, “In recent years there has been widespread concern about the impact that children’s texting behavior may have on their developing understanding of written and spoken language conventions. However, surprisingly little research has been undertaken to examine such claims.”

She continued, “There is no reason to assume that just because children play with the representation of written language when they are texting that this will somehow damage or undermine their appreciation of standard grammar over time.”

2 Comments
  1. SuzyS #

    I respectfully disagree with with Professor Clare Wood. What other explanation do I have when I have seen a sharp decline in proper use of writing mechanics, as well as use of such words as ‘cuz’ and ‘u’ in formal writing? Should I blame the teachers from the year before, or should I blame texting? I had a stamp made because I got tired of writing ‘capitalize’ on assignments so often.

    March 13, 2013
  2. James Gentry #

    As a retired teacher of high school English and reader/grader of hundreds of eleventh grade themes, I can’t help disagreeing with the professor. I’d announce on the first day of school that techspeak used on an assigned theme or paper would be considered a serious error.

    March 14, 2013

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