Do texting and online chatting affect spelling?

Future texting
Nope! Research suggests that whether kids use text messaging or other types of shortened text for writing online doesn't make a blind bit of difference to their spelling.

Good spellers, weak spellers
Some small-scale research at the University of Alberta in Canada found that those who could spell well in academic contexts also spelled well on-line or on their mobiles and those that couldn't didn't.

The difference between girls and boys
They also found that girls used more short forms, like GR8, LOL, etc, whereas boys used more punctuation!!!!!!!! (like that). The article's at:

The most literate generation ever?
Interesting stuff but the study was tiny (only 40 kids). At the other end of the scale, but with similar results, some research from Stanford University was enormous, involving 14,672 bits of student writing (both academic and social). The researchers showed that young people are doing more writing than any previous generation have ever done. And significantly they are writing for a specific purpose - not just to hand in an essay because they have to. "Ah yes but...,"say the grumpy old women/men*, "...they may be writing a lot but they use so much of that dreadful texting language that they forget how to write properly." Not so, according to these researchers: in all the academic papers that they looked at they didn't find any examples at all of texting language. The research is here.

What do you think?
If you are a teacher or a parent, do you think SMS language affects your children's spelling? And do you think some shortened forms like u (for you) will eventually become accepted forms of English spelling?

*I don't know if grumpy old men and grumpy old women are an entirely British phenomenon or not. They are not necessarily particularly old (middle-aged) but they are certainly grumpy ... about everything - especially anything new or anyone young.


  1. I wrote a similar post a while back... language is simply dynamic and to be honest, what would be the fuss really if we started writing you as u - I mean would it really matter?

    I have found it creeping into my world and some of it I like, e.g. fave instead of favorite which is so long and I constantly have to think who's my audience do I need to write it with a u as in favourite?

  2. Thanks for your comment, Karenne. I agree. Spelling reform is fine if it happens naturally. I write 'thru' in informal writing instead of 'through' and 'tho' for 'although', tho I'm a Brit. But for me, '2' (to) and '4' (for) don't come naturally - only use them in Twitter when I need to shorten something.

    I wish I could live forever to see what will happen to the language!

  3. Johanna,

    Thank you for posting this! I have been looking for research on this topic because I get parents who daily tell me of the horror of SMS and how it is ruining their kids' education. I do catch myself often writing shorthand for e-mails like it is a tweet but really I go back and edit. If anything, the process has taught me to edit carefully.

  4. Shelly, that's an interesting take on it - it actually makes you edit more carefully. Yes, it's almost like a draft for the ideas, then an edit for the language. I think it's so interesting, and overlooked, that there's a generation who are writing so much and for an audience and real communicative purpose too.

  5. Thx for posting these article. Nowadays mobile users are huge in amount.Forthcoming generation will loose their learning due to short text.I hope here is the right place for those buddies.

  6. Have you read The New York Times article "Informal Style of Electronic Messages Is Showing Up in Schoolwork, Study Finds"?

  7. I do think it is important for learners to write words out fully! There is a method to reading! In order to read fluently we tend to look at the rest of the words in the sentence! With sms language it is very difficult to get into that habit!

  8. i believe chatting affects spelling badly especially for the arab leaners, as students are strongly requested to write english properly and with no is obvious that arab leanes have become weaker in wtiting and they always forget or suspect the correct spelling.`not only has chatting affected the english language , but also our native language which is arabic.